While high-profile races for governor and U.S. Senate may have dominated the airwaves and social media this year, the elections in Colorado’s Legislature were equally important – especially following the state’s independent redistricting process.

At the start of this election cycle, Democrats controlled both houses of the state legislature, but their advantage in the state Senate was thinner, with only a five-seat majority. Many Republicans set their hopes on taking back control of the upper chamber. Instead, Democrats gained even more seats in both houses, in what outgoing GOP state Rep. Colin Larson of Littleton called “an extinction-level event” for Colorado Republicans.

Here is a roundup of highlights from the Colorado Times Recorder’s coverage of several races for state legislature seats this year.

Senate District 3 (Pueblo)

Political Newcomers To Face Off in Pueblo

May 11 – Eyes turned to this state Senate race in 2022, with Republicans hoping to flip a Democrat stronghold. State Sen. Nick Hinrichsen (D-Pueblo), recently appointed to replace prior Sen. Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) after his resignation in January, faced former Democrat and self-described combat veteran Stephen Varela.

Varela Won’t Comment on 2017 Domestic Disturbance

October 24 – Records obtained by the Colorado Times Recorder revealed that the Pueblo Police Department was called to Varela’s home for an alleged domestic disturbance on the morning of Dec. 11, 2017. He had multiple other run-ins with law enforcement in prior years, including an arrest for aggravated battery in 2009. 

When the Colorado Times Recorder first asked Varela about these incidents, he denied having any knowledge of them. In a later email, he would decline to comment further, but he acknowledged one of the arrests in a Facebook video several days later.

Senate District 8 (Upper Western Slope)

GOP State Senate Hopeful’s ‘Selling Drugs’ Admission Sparks Debate Heading Into Assembly

April 4 – With Republicans focusing on fentanyl and Colorado’s rising crime rate in the 2022 election, a Western Slope state senate candidate’s admission of “selling drugs on the side” in college is raising eyebrows ahead of this weekend’s GOP state assembly.

Solomon Wants Government Out of Healthcare While Roberts Touts Record of Reducing Costs

October 28 – Democratic state Rep. Dylan Roberts of Summit County touted years of work to bring down healthcare costs in underserved rural areas. Conversely, his Republican opponent, Matt Solomon, contended that “government has no business being in business” when it comes to healthcare, and he’s generally a believer in the idea that “tax-payer funded healthcare should be abolished in all forms” – leaving himself open to the possibility of reducing Medicare benefits.

Senate District 11 (Colorado Springs)

CO Springs Senate Candidates Discuss Issues During Zoom Forum

June 2 – Colorado Springs’ newly created Senate District 11 pitted established politicians Rep. Tony Exum (D-Colorado Springs) and Colorado Springs District 4 City Councilor Yolanda Avila in a primary contest to compete against Sen. Dennis Hisey (R-Fountain).

Senate District 20 (Jefferson County)

Colorado State Senate Candidate Tim Walsh Funded Far-Right Conspiracist’s Videos

July 29 – Front Range developer Tim Walsh, who is running for state senate in Jefferson County, promises to “keep politics out of the classroom,” but he’s also funded a right-wing group with the opposite goal: teaching a conservative Christian version of American history to young people.

CO Senate Candidate Walsh Praised Trump in Private, Now Tells Voters He’s ‘Not a Fan’

October 31 – According to an article by the Colorado Sun’s Elliot Wenzler, Republican candidate Tim Walsh frequently said on the campaign trail that he was “not a fan” of Donald Trump and “never has been.” But that ran contrary to footage of Walsh at the Jefferson County Republican Men’s Club earlier this year, in which he said he was an early Trump supporter but could not campaign on that fact due to his unpopularity.

Senate District 25

CO Republican Statehouse Candidate Is Election Denier Working for Mike Lindell

August 4 – Melody Peotter, running for a state Senate seat in the north Denver suburbs, listed Lindell Management as her employer on her personal financial disclosure form. Mike Lindell, CEO of MyPillow, funds the national election conspiracist organization Cause of America, and he told Reuters that he pays other election-focused employees through Lindell Management. Chat logs showed Peotter also promoted antisemitic conspiracy theories.

Senate District 27 (Aurora Area)

Tom Sullivan, Whose Son Died in a Gun Massacre, Faces a Republican Challenger, Who Has a Top Rating From the NRA

August 12 – In his race for state Senate, Tom Sullivan, who first ran for the state legislature after his son was killed in the Aurora Theater massacre and has made gun safety a top priority ever since, faces a Republican opponent, Tom Kim, who received an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and appears to oppose the basic gun safety measures Sullivan has pushed into Colorado law.

House District 13 (West of I70 From About Idaho Springs Past Walden)

Buckley’s Proposal Would Strip Health Insurance From Coloradans with Pre-Existing Conditions, Says Expert

Sept 15 – Republican state House candidate David Buckley’s proposal that the “government needs to stay out” of health care could result in thousands of Coloradans with pre-existing conditions losing their health insurance, according to an expert on health care policy.

House District 16 (El Paso County)

El Paso County Leaders Address Recent Controversies at ‘Hold the Line’

May 25 – Speaking at an evangelical event, El Paso County Commissioner Dave Donelson, running as a Republican for a state legislature seat, made numerous comments denouncing drag shows and transgender inclusion policies. Stephanie Vigil, his Democratic opponent, said that Donelson and other speakers’ hostility towards transgender people stemmed from the lack of an actionable legislative agenda by Colorado conservatives.

“I believe to my core that self-determination is a basic human right,” she said. “I think it’s a core Colorado value, which is pretty evident by the way we keep voting for things like abortion and LGBTQ rights and looking out for trans kids and all of that.”

House District 17 (Colorado Springs)

Historic House Race in Southeast Colorado Springs

November 4 – This was the only race in the state where two Black women were running against one anotther. The competitors in this state House contest: Democrat Regina English and Republican Rachel Stovall. 

CO Springs Republican Who Said Mail Ballots ‘Create Real Risk for Fraud’ Votes Her Mail Ballot Every Year

November 4 – Rachel Stovall answered a conservative Christian voter guide questionnaire by casting doubt on Colorado’s universal mail-in ballot system, saying, “It creates a real risk for fraud.” A spokesperson for the El Paso County Clerk’s office confirmed that Stovall had voted with her mail ballot in every election from 2015 through this year’s Republican primary in June. Asked for comment, Stovall said the Church Voter Guide may have edited her answer.

House District 18 (Colorado Springs)

Republican Hopes to Beat ‘Leftist Marxist’ For CO Springs House Seat

May 6 – Attorney Shana Black faced off with her GOP primary opponent, anti-mask activist Summer Groubert, during an April 23 Better Conservative Politics candidate forum. Black, touting membership of multiple far-right groups, accused incumbent Rep. Mark Snyder (D-Manitou Springs) of being a ‘leftist Marxist,’ despite Snyder’s relatively conservative stances on business and economics compared to his Democratic peers.

CO Statehouse Candidate Proposed Dissolving America, Shared Conspiracies, & Claims Racist Economist as Mentor

August 18 – Shana Black’s social media presence showed a propensity for conspiracy theories, including one directly linked to QAnon. In a Facebook post, she also proposed ending the United States as we know it, asking for suggestions on how to divide America into two nations: one conservative and one liberal. 

House District 26 (Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties and parts of Eagle County)

CO High Country Statehouse Race Highlights Stark Differences on Abortion in Wake of Leaked Roe v. Wade Opinion

May 5 – Democrat Meghan Lukens and Republican Savannah Wolfson were put in contrast primarily by their views on abortion. Wolfson criticized Colorado Dems’ Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA) as “one of the most extreme [abortion policies] in the world,” and vowed to protect religious liberty if elected.

“I know Colorado will keep abortion legal for a long time,” wrote Wolfson. “But I want to start by introducing legislation to require burial for aborted children, to make a point. …I want to start with requiring burial of aborted children in Colorado, in recognition of their humanity.”

House District 49 (Boulder)

Boulder GOP Statehouse Candidate Participated in Jan 6 Insurrection, Believes There Was Election Fraud

August 30 – Katie Lehr boasted that she was one of the first people in attendance at the capitol on Jan. 6, and defended fellow attendees. On her campaign’s Facebook page, she also platformed multiple conspiracy theories and far-right positions, such as calling the FBI’s raid on Mar-a-Lago a “Stalinesque” political attack.

House District 59 (Southwestern Colorado)

‘We Are Headed For a Civil War,’ CO GOP Statehouse Candidate Warns

May 11 – Shelli Shaw, a Republican running to represent a highly competitive district, wrote the day after the Jan. 6 Insurrection that a second American civil war was imminent. Her post seemingly compared conservatives to Black people enslaved prior to the Civil War. She later deleted the post, but said afterward that she still stands by the warning that “80 million pissed off Americans … will not give up their freedoms without a fight.”