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.
And then there’s Benjamin Huseman, the Commerce City mayor who was unanimously censured by the city council in October of last year due to “unprofessional” behavior during meetings, according to the Denver Post.
Earlier that year, he publicly apologized to constituents and fellow council members for getting too drunk on a city-sponsored trip in D.C., during which he forgot his hotel room number and mistakenly charged his bar tab to a fellow council member. Huseman spent 20 years in the Air Force before retiring in Commerce City.
“The political discourse in our nation and our state is at an all-time high,” Huseman says on his Facebook page. “We need politicians that will work for all residents of Colorado and bridge the gap to create unity.”
Other Republicans who have filed for candidacy include Laurie Clark of Monument, Destinee Workman of Clifton, Christopher Tackett of Clifton, Jon Gray-Ginsberg of Frisco, Jim Rundberg of Antonito, Jeffrey Fry of Hayden, 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.
As mentioned above, Heidi Ganahl is expected to announce a run for statewide office, potentially governor.
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.”
Ganahl has dodged questions about whether she will run for re-election to the Board of Regents in 2022.
She is a supporter of Donald Trump and once defended a CU professor who promoted a conspiracy theory regarding Kamala Harris’ eligibility to be Vice President.
This post will be updated as more candidates join the race.