Update 4/20/22: This post has been updated to reflect additional candidates that have entered or left the race.
Update 2/16/22: This post has been updated to reflect new candidates who have entered the race since publication. Additionally, candidates Benjamin Huseman and Destinee Workman have terminated their campaigns.
Update 9/10/21: Heidi Ganahl filed paperwork to run for governor on Friday, Sept. 1, though she hasn’t issued an official campaign statement.
Candidates are beginning to line up to challenge Colorado Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat, next year in a race that some Republicans are already admitting they have no chance of winning.
Colorado Republicans have been looking to rebound after historic election losses in 2018 and 2020 that left all but one statewide seat in Democratic hands, including the offices of the governor, the secretary of state, the treasurer, and the attorney general. University of Colorado Regent-at-Large Heidi Ganahl is the sole Republican who’s resisted Colorado’s blue wave and held on to a statewide elected seat, and rumor has it that she’s eyeing Colorado’s top executive office.
It seems unlikely, however, that a run from Ganahl would give Republicans in Colorado a good shot at the governor’s mansion.
A poll released last month by the left-leaning firm Global Strategy Group found that Democrats have a big advantage in 2022. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they would vote for Polis compared with 39% who would vote for a generic Republican candidate, and 12% said they were undecided or refused to answer.
Interestingly, a generic Republican polled better than Ganahl, who is seen as the GOP’s best hope for winning in any statewide race. According to the poll, Polis has a clear advantage, with 54% saying they’d back Polis and just 34% for Ganahl.
In fact, at least one Republican leader in the state has admitted that the party has little chance of beating Polis.
Asked by a conservative radio host if Polis could be beaten, John Cooke, who’s the Republican Assistant Minority Leader in the Colorado Senate, said, “I don’t think he can at this point.”
“You know, it’s unfortunate, but money runs campaigns,” Cooke said, as reported by the Colorado Times Recorder last week. “And one, we need to have a good candidate, and it’s really getting late in the season.”
It is getting late in the season, and some potential candidates are likely holding out to see how the chips fall regarding congressional and state legislative redistricting.
With the odds stacked against them, Colorado Republicans could be pursuing a different strategy to win back some seats by putting stronger candidates–Ganahl, perhaps–in lower-profile races and hoping that some voters who back Polis can be persuaded to vote for a Republican down-ballot in the Secretary of State or Treasurer’s race, for example.
So far, however, media and political analysts have been left to theorize, because no promient Republican in Colorado has announced plans to run for governor.
Here’s what you need to know about the confirmed and potential candidates so far:
Republican Greg Lopez, who announced his candidacy in March, finished third in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary behind Victor Mitchell and Walker Stapleton, who won the Republican nomination before eventually losing to Polis in the general election. A former mayor of Parker and former Colorado Hispanic Chamber leader, Lopez is framing himself as a sure bet to attract Hispanic and Unaffiliated voters–critical constituencies for Colorado Republicans to have a path to victory.
“Our path to victory is simple, we must attract 18% more Hispanics and Unaffiliated voters to win in the 2022 General Election,” Lopez states on his website. “The values of the Hispanic community are conservative, I know how to communicate, engage with and win the Hispanic vote.”
He describes himself as a “Christian conservative” who is “pro-life,” “anti-illegal immigration,” and supports the Second Amendment. He’s spoken at multiple rallies opposing covid-19 public health orders and vaccines.
During his 2018 bid for governor, he called former President Donald Trump “a good role model” for kids.
Elbert realtor and political newcomer Danielle Neuschwanger has also formally launched a campaign.
“I don’t want to promise free things,” Neuschwanger said in a July 29 interview with conservative radio host Peter Boyles. “I want to inspire the American dream.”
“We have a government that’s attacking family and trying to destroy the family values altogether,” Neuschwanger told Boyles. “And yet we’re trying to raise good human beings when you can’t call your dad and mom, mother and father.”
In a July 1 interview with Boyles, she said she doesn’t like the “the drug trafficking, the sex trafficking, the child pornography” that “comes with” immigrants.
During the Republican State Assembly in April, however, Neuschwanger did not receive enough votes to qualify for the primary ballot. She later went on to claim that the clickers used to count votes were not working properly.
CU Regent Heidi Ganahl, who announced her candidacy in September, is a frontrunner for the GOP. As stated above, she is currently Colorado’s only Republican to hold a statewide office. Ganahl has been a longtime backer of Donald Trump, and has also praised insurrection memo writer John Eastman.
Until recently, when Ganahl was asked whether she thought the 2020 election was legitimate, she dodged the question. In February, however, she claimed that “rules [were] being weakened before the election in some states,” without specifying which rules were weakened, which states this took place in, or what impact this had on the election. She also did not give any evidence to support this claim.
Other than her current role as a CU Regent, Ganahl is known as a leading entrepreneur in the state. She started the highly successful pet care company Camp Bow Wow and recently launched a “lifestyle brand” called SheFactor that aims to “help young women create a life they love,” while also “talking about free markets, free speech, individual rights, personal responsibility,” Ganahl said to Republicans at a 2019 luncheon. “We’re just not doing it as an overt political organization.”
Other Republicans who have filed for candidacy include Laurie Clark of Monument, Christopher Tackett of Clifton, Jon Gray-Ginsberg of Frisco, Jeffrey Fry of Hayden, Jason Lopez of Morrison, Jack Dillender of Crestone, Nate Marshall of Denver, William Purdy of Aurora, Zachariah Burck of Arvada, Darryl Gibbs of Aurora, and Douglas Randall of CO Springs, all longshot candidates who have never won an elected office. So far, Dustin Rorex of Pueblo is the only Democrat who has filed for candidacy.
Additionally, Ralph Tingle of Denver, Jim Rundberg of Antonito, Christopher Salgado of Pueblo, Chadwick Bowman of Englewood, Jarred Ahrend of Colorado Springs, William Redmon of Buena Vista, Paul Willmon of Wellington, and Brian Vande Krol of Parker have filed as Unaffiliated candidates. Kevin Rukusky of Aurora has filed as a Libertarian, while Bill Stevens of Englewood has filed as a member of the Approval Voting Party.
This post will be updated as more candidates join the race.