Some grassroots conservatives say Heidi Ganahl, a Republican candidate for governor, is avoiding events where she would have to share a stage with other candidates — a claim Ganahl’s campaign disputes.
In addition to her primary opponent Greg Lopez claiming Ganahl won’t do any televised debates, Mickie Nuffer, a Loveland grandmother who founded Northern Colorado Ladies for Liberty, says Ganahl backed out of a May 5 event upon learning Lopez would be there.
Nuffer, who founded the NOCO Ladies for Liberty in February of this year, says she was inspired to hold the gubernatorial event after hearing then-Republican candidate Danielle Neuschwanger speak in Fort Collins that same month Nuffer launched her group. Initially, Nuffer said, she planned to invite just Neuschwanger and Ganahl and have the event focus solely on women candidates, but that by the end of February her group decided a forum with the other main candidate Lopez made the most sense. When Neuschwanger failed to make the ballot via assembly, that left Ganahl and Lopez for the event.
“I confirmed all three and it was always with the understanding that it depended on what happened at our State Assembly,” said Nuffer. “So we knew that, Danielle, because of [the assembly vote], was not going to be on the GOP ballot. And so at that point, it was going to be Heidi and Greg. We started selling tickets for our event and I’ve been in constant contact with both of the campaigns because because of our rapid growth and we actually at one point had to switch venues.
“So we finally settled on May 5th at the Sweetheart Winery, and I get a call from Heidi’s campaign and they told me that they were not going to be able to make the event. They said they had gotten a copy of the Eventbrite [invitation] and saw that we had listed it as a forum, and that’s not what they agreed to. And I said, Well, the only thing that has changed from all of our conversations is that Danielle is not going to be there any because she was knocked off the GOP ballot. So that’s the only thing that changed. And they said, well, they had decided back — and I don’t know how how far back — but they decided that they were not going to do any more debates or forums and that’s why they were not going to join us.
“And so I said, ‘We are in the beginning stages of planning this evening. What kind of event would it have to be for Heidi to still come and join us? And they said that she would not come if there were any other candidates present. And what I was told is — basically in quotes — that ‘she did not want to get into a wild horse race with another candidate.’ So I certainly was not going to un-invite Greg at this point and so that’s where we’re at. I just thanked him for his time.
Heidi is going around the state saying her message resonates with women, grandmothers, moms in the trenches, and I thought, well? It’s kind of interesting to me since here we are, a group of women, grandmothers…and yet obviously we were not her brand of women. I know today it’s hard to define what a woman is but obviously we didn’t qualify for her brand of woman.”
Greg Lopez is telling a similar story at recent campaign events. At the opening last month of his campaign headquarters in Parker, Lopez said that 9News and CBS Channel 4 each proposed televised debates to both campaigns, but that the Ganahl campaign refused them all.
“Our opponent in the Republican primary is not wanting to be in the same room with me,” said Lopez. “She is not wanting to do debates. Channel 9 said, ‘Greg we want to do a debate, but your opponent does not want to be a part of it.’ Channel 4 said, ‘We’re trying to do a debate but your opponent does not want to be a part of it.’ So you have to ask yourself why is that the approach that she’s taking?”
Later in that same speech, he added that Spanish-language news station Univision also wanted to broadcast a GOP primary debate but told him Ganahl declined.
Lopez expanded upon his claims in a campaign event in Silverton last weekend, where he recounted his conversation with Ganahl from the previous night.
“Last night we were in Monte Vista and Heidi and I both got to speak for a few minutes,” said Lopez. “We were sitting at a round table and she said, “Thanks for taking one for the team with that Kyle Clark show interview.’ I went on because he reached out, said he wanted to interview the candidates. I was walking into the lion’s den but I went anyway so Ganahl was telling me thanks for taking one for the team. She said she won’t go in and talk to him because he’ll twist what she says.
“9News asked me while I was there if I’d do a debate with Heidi and I said of course; Two weeks prior Channel 4 reached out about doing a debate with Heidi and I, I said I’d be willing to join. I asked Heidi last night after the Kyle Clark comments about the 9News debate, she said, ‘We’re not going to do a debate on 9News.’ She doesn’t like 9News. I said, ‘Oh, ok, what about Channel 4?’ She said she was too busy traveling the state, and it would require redoing all of the schedules; my sources tell me that she doesn’t want to be in the same room.”
9News’ Clark has noted on air that the Ganahl campaign has so far declined the station’s invitation for a one-on-one interview.
Reached for comment Lopez campaign spokesperson C.J. Garbo offered the following statement.
“In a recent conversation Greg had with Heidi, she informed Greg that her schedule would not allow for any televised debates. As for the grassroots leaders, we cannot say, however, Greg has attended scheduled events where it was our understanding that Heidi was invited and would be in attendance but did not attend.
“When Greg and Heidi emerged from the State Assembly as the victors, our campaign was excited about two quality candidates and the opportunity for us to raise the level of debate and public discussion in Colorado like no other Republican Primary in recent history – and we communicated such to her campaign. It is just unfortunate that many people may not have an opportunity to experience the Primary Race that they deserve.”
Reached for comment last Friday, Ganahl spokesperson Lexi Swearingen rejected the claim that the campaign only accepts event invitations where Ganahl will be the only candidate. She noted at least nine upcoming events at which Ganahl and Lopez will both be attending, including the “Republican Rumble” in Denver this Saturday at which the pair will debate directly, and the aforementioned San Luis Valley Lincoln Day Dinner in Monte Vista from which Lopez subsequently shared the candidates’ conversation.
“Heidi is looking forward to our next debate with Greg at the Grizzly Rose next Saturday, which will be our fifth forum/debate so far,” said Swearingen. “We’ve also got at least four more speaking events scheduled that both gubernatorial candidates will be attending – including next week in Otero County, the Western Conservative Summit in a couple weeks, the Lincoln Day Dinner in Monte Vista this weekend, and the Red Wave November event in Fort Collins in early June.
“Those are just the five events that come to mind that we are appearing at with Greg Lopez. Heidi is focused on meeting as many Coloradans as possible and getting our message out in as many ways as possible. That requires her to be on the road, on the airwaves, in meetings, and at events each day. Her dedication and determination to winning this race and taking back the governorship and our Colorado Way of Life is unmatched.”
Disputing Lopez’s claim about on-air debates, Swearingen says that the campaign was never invited to a debate hosted by 9News. Addressing Lopez’s version of the conversation between the candidates in Monte Vista, Swearingen says Ganahl had a wonderful time at the event with Lopez and several other statewide and local candidates. “She doesn’t wish to get into the details of their private conversation, other than to say it has been misrepresented.”
Swearingen declined to comment on specifics of Nuffer’s account of Ganahl’s withdrawal from the NOCO Ladies of Liberty May 5 event but said the campaign welcomes the opportunity to speak with the NOCO Ladies of Liberty or attend one of their events.
Nuffer’s experience clearly left the political newcomer frustrated.
“We were three weeks out and they they backed out on this, one they’d known about for months,” said Nuffer. “And we are not the only group that they backed out of… As Governor it’s easy to make promises, but if you’re already not keeping the promises you’ve made, even for your campaign events, I don’t think that speaks well for you or your campaign.
“She’s got a nickname like President Biden has, you know, people poked fun of him that he was hiding in his basement. Well, Heidi also has a nickname called ‘Hiding Heidi.’ And we said, ‘OK, she’s earning her nickname again.'”
Another grassroots group leader whose event Ganahl declined says he had nothing but respect for Ganahl. Rich Wyatt, who runs the Colorado Mountain Republicans, hosted a May 17 event featuring Lopez and initially Neuschwanger, who was later disinvited, but not Ganahl. Reached for comment, Wyatt said that the Ganahl campaign couldn’t make it as the candidate had a previously scheduled event, but that he found her to be extremely nice and looked forward to her speaking to his group in the future. Ganahl had a $150 per person fundraiser with oil and gas executive Jim Harpole last night at the same time as the CMR event.
The NOCO Ladies of Liberty has its next event on June 7 at the Sweetheart Winery in Loveland. U.S. Senate candidate Ron Hanks is the featured speaker. Secretary of State hopeful Tina Peters is also possibly attending depending her schedule. Four other Norther Colorado statehouse candidates will also be in attendance: Dee Dee Vicino for House District 52; Donna Walter for HD53, Tara Menza for HD11, and Kathryn Lehr for HD49.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly placed the Republican Rumble event, which is taking place at the Grizzly Rose in Denver on May 21, in the city of Golden.