Soon after Colorado’s election polling centers closed at 7:00 p.m., onlookers at Congressional candidate Gabe Evans’ primary election watch party erupted in cheers. 

They’d just watched Kyle Clark of 9News on a big screen TV set up inside Thornton’s Satire Brewing Company in Thornton declare Evans the winner over his Republican primary opponent, Janak Joshi, by a margin of more than 3-to-1. 

It’s unclear if Evans’ MAGA-endorsed views will appeal to more moderate Republicans and unaffiliated voters in November’s general election. Still, many volunteers at Evans’ watch party acknowledged that, at the very least, Trump’s endorsement brought attention to their candidate.

“The Trump endorsement was like a flashing neon sign,” said Chris Fahrenbruch of Adams County. “It helped spread the word far better than we could do individually.”

Evans has refused to answer yes or no as to whether the 2020 election was stolen, and he continues to say he’ll still vote for Trump despite the former president’s 34 felony convictions.

The faces of Evan’s volunteers, campaign staff, family and friends showed no signs they’d feared he would lose

“Evans is a regular guy who connects with common sense issues,” said Jessica Spindle, Evans’ political director.

“He’s a farmer. He wears boots and doesn’t try to be something he’s not,” she said. Spindle believes Joshi’s wealth put him out of touch with the 8th Congressional District’s constituents.  

Joshi is a former physician who was forced to surrender his medical license in 2008 and the previous owner of a medical clinic and dialysis centers. He also served three terms in the state House, representing a district in Colorado Springs. Joshi possesses considerable wealth, lending his campaign $150,000 of the $189,000 raised. 

By contrast, Evans billed himself as a Colorado native, a grandson of Mexican immigrants, a combat veteran and a former law enforcement officer focused on “solving the problems of everyday Americans.”

While Evans’ working-class background may have helped him with voters, Spindle said she wasn’t sure whether having former president Donald Trump’s endorsement helped or hurt the campaign. 

“It’s a toss-up,” she said. 

The 8th Congressional District, which appeared on the ballot for the first time in 2022, is widely thought of as purple, meaning both parties have similar levels of support. Democrat incumbent Yadira Caraveo won the seat by less than 2,000 votes over Republican Barb Kirkmeyer, who made headlines of her own in 2021 by being one of the few Colorado Republicans who publicly acknowledged that Trump indeed lost the 2020 election. 

Evans’ victory speech touched on one of Trump’s favorite issues: immigration. He supports Trump’s calls for mass deportation of immigrants living illegally in the U.S. without a solid plan for how to do so.

“We know we’ve got a wide-open southern border and that the sanctuary state policies in Colorado are costing taxpayers anywhere from 200 to over 300 million taxpayer dollars,” Evans said during his primary election acceptance speech. “It annoys me to no end that we’ve got terrorist affiliates who are walking across our southern borders.”

It’s unclear where Evans got his numbers. Denver Mayor Mike Johnston announced in April that the city was creating a new asylum-seeker program which would be part of nearly “90 million in migrant services expected in the 2024 city budget, about half as much money as the city had said in January that it was likely to spend this year,” according to reporting by the Colorado Sun.

Partygoers cheer Dave Williams’s loss

Colorado Republican party chair and Congressional candidate Dave Williams endorsed Joshi despite Evans having won Trump’s approval, a fact not lost on those involved in Evans’ campaign.

The crowd, including Republican Congressional candidate John Fabbricatore, who ran unopposed in the GOP primary for Colorado’s 6th District, applauded as televised reports began to show Williams losing his primary bid for the 5th Congressional District, located in Colorado Springs and parts of El Paso County.

Fabbricatore shouted, “Get Dave Out,” while watching the news. He said he opposed Williams’s refusal to resign from his party role to run for office.

“It’s a leadership issue. Rather than providing support to ensure Republicans could win, he made it more difficult,” said Fabbricatore. “He can say whatever he wants as a candidate, but when he chooses to say things like ‘God hates gay people,’ it becomes about the party.”

Evans signed a petition earlier this month calling for Williams to resign as the party chair over his anti-LGBTQ Pride emails and social media posts.

Williams, who was also endorsed by Trump, lost handily to his primary opponent, Jeff Crank. Fourteen of the 18 candidates Williams endorsed across the state also lost, signaling widespread rejection of his unwavering support for the far-right fringe of his party.