In the wake of former President Donald Trump’s Jan. 23 triumph in the New Hampshire primary, Colorado congressional candidate Russ Andrews of Carbondale, called on his GOP rivals in his race to demonstrate party unity and embrace presidential frontrunner Trump.

“Unified, we can effectively address the pressing issues our nation faces, restore order and security, and most importantly, defeat President [Joe] Biden in November,” wrote Andrews, who’s running for the southwestern Colorado district abandoned in late December by U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert. “If we cannot, I fear that Aspen Adam Frisch and his Hollywood backers will seize this seat, and possibly control of Congress.” Frisch lost to Boebert by just 546 votes in 2022.

Former Republican state Rep. Ron Hanks, a recent Grand Junction transplant and newcomer to the race to represent Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District (CD3), had this to say about Andrews’ call for unity:

“I’ve endorsed and fought for President Trump repeatedly for years — and served under him as my Commander-in-Chief while in the U.S. military,” Hanks wrote in an email. “Russ is way behind if he is asking me to join him for anything. In reality, Russ is trying to jump on the Trump train for political expedience and for his campaign’s survival, not because Russ holds any of the same conservative views as Donald J. Trump.”

So much for party unity headed into the March caucus process and the June 25 primary election.

The Andrews campaign, which was primarily targeting Republican Grand Junction lawyer Jeff Hurd – the fundraising and endorsement leader so far in the CD3 race – for his failure to sign a unity pledge, said this of Hanks:

“We have not been able to locate Ron Hanks’ phone number,” Andrews responded via email. “However, we did send him an email requesting a signature. We will keep you updated if he responds.”

Hanks, the combative former state rep from Cañon City (outside of CD3), is known for attending the Jan. 6, 2021 riot by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol without entering the building and for his failed primary challenge of Joe O’Dea in Colorado’s 2022 U.S. Senate race. Hanks lost to newcomer O’Dea by a margin of 54.4% to 45.5% in the June 2022 GOP primary. O’Dea then got trounced by Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet by a margin 55.9% to 41.3%.

In both failed pursuits, however – election denial and RINO hunting – Hanks has arguably garnered far more name recognition than Hurd, a political newcomer who has thus far largely avoided the media but says he’s still in the race despite Boebert bailing. Hurd did not respond to an email requesting comment for this article.

“I will not make any assertions about my frontrunner status, but I will firmly state I am the only conservative Republican in this race, and I am the only one with legislative experience,” Hanks emailed. “My political record clearly demonstrates my consistent fight for Liberty, our 2nd Amendment Rights, School Choice, and for the Unborn.”

Andrews, contrasting Hanks’ hardline stance, believes abortion should be legal up until 22 weeks of pregnancy. He hews closer to Hanks, however, on matters of insurrection, contrasting sharply with both Frisch and fellow CD3 Democratic challenger Anna Stout, the mayor of Grand Junction. Hanks, meanwhile, is an immigration hardliner, while other CD3 candidates share much more nuanced views on the issue.

Asked about the Trump effect in CD3 – a geographically massive 9-point Republican district stretching from Pueblo to Grand Junction – Frisch is characteristically careful as a Dem looking to win in a district Trump won by 12 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016 and six points over Biden in 2020.

“I understand there is going to be a lot of discussion on the Republican primary race given there are four to five people in the race and more coming,” Frisch emailed. “As I have said many times, I am not focused on Team Red or Team Blue, but Team CD3, and will continue to drive around the district further connecting with the people and businesses in this district that are still seeking a representative that is taking the job and issues seriously.”

Asked about the arrival of Hanks, who saw national Democratic spending in his primary with O’Dea in an attempt to bolster the more right-wing candidate, and specifically Andrews pushing for greater GOP unity, Frisch said he’s staying focused on the issues.

“So, with the assumed growing internal quarreling elsewhere in the CD3 race, I will remain focused as ever on Colorado water, Colorado jobs, and Colorado energy,” Frisch wrote after detailing his recent travels across CD3. “I share the frustration that many people have — regardless of political affiliation — of the lack of focus on what we are all dealing with on a daily basis in rural Colorado and the disconnected politicians in D.C. on both sides of the aisle.”

Given the six-point Trump lean in CD3 in 2020 and despite Biden’s overall victory in Colorado by more than 13 points, Hanks made it clear he’s all in on the twice-impeached, four-times-indicted ex-president who still refuses to acknowledge he lost to Biden by more than 7 million votes nationwide in 2020. Trump faces state and federal felony charges for his push to overturn the free and fair – and fully legally vetted – 2020 presidential election of Biden.

“On January 14, 2024, the day before the Iowa Caucus, the Colorado GOP endorsed [former] President Trump by a 2 to 1 margin,” Hanks emailed. “I believe it was a brilliant start to the 2024 campaign, and it puts Colorado squarely in the center of the presidential race — exactly where it needs to be, given the misguided efforts of the Colorado Secretary of State and the Colorado Supreme Court to keep Trump off the ballot.”

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled on Dec. 19 that Trump, under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, should not be allowed to appear on Colorado’s 2024 ballot because he engaged in an insurrection against the federal government after previously swearing an oath the uphold the Constitution. That case is likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to the Eagle County Republican Party, that case is top of mind for GOP voters in the mountain county that is split between Boebert’s CD3 and Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse’s CD2. On Jan. 1, in an email blast, Eagle County Republican Party Chairman Tony Martinez wrote: “The Democrats have started their election steal with four individuals you’ve never heard of, you’ve never met, and you’ve never voted for – the four appointed justices of the CO Supreme Court — that ruled to take Trump off the 2024 ballot.”

In an email on Jan. 22, Martinez expanded: “My hopes are that the SCOTUS fully puts this to bed in February. Letting this go back to Congress could create another insurrection, but then again, maybe that’s what the Democrats want. Not to go too far down a rabbit hole, the J6 event was a set-up from the start, initiated weeks prior. If the Democrats are good at one thing, it’s their sinister plans developed well in advance of any event actually happening.”

More than 1,000 Trump supporters have been charged for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, with hundreds convicted, and there has been no credible evidence that Democrats, federal officials, or anyone other than backers of defeated former President Trump were involved.