Some Colorado GOP hardliners fall short in primary elections

June 29, 2022 GMT
Heidi Ganahl celebrates during a watch party celebrating her Republican primary win for gubernatorial candidacy on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 in Sedalia, Colo. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via AP)
Heidi Ganahl celebrates during a watch party celebrating her Republican primary win for gubernatorial candidacy on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 in Sedalia, Colo. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via AP)
Heidi Ganahl celebrates during a watch party celebrating her Republican primary win for gubernatorial candidacy on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 in Sedalia, Colo. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via AP)
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Heidi Ganahl celebrates during a watch party celebrating her Republican primary win for gubernatorial candidacy on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 in Sedalia, Colo. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via AP)
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Heidi Ganahl celebrates during a watch party celebrating her Republican primary win for gubernatorial candidacy on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 in Sedalia, Colo. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via AP)

DENVER (AP) — Voters in Colorado’s Republican primaries opted Tuesday for candidates widely considered stronger challengers to Democrats’ stranglehold on the state’s top offices, decisively rejecting right-wing candidates for U.S. Senate, governor and secretary of state.

Voters also selected their November nominees in the state’s eight congressional districts, with a new, northern Colorado swing district in play after the state gained a seat with redistricting.

Democrats spent millions of dollars boosting the campaigns of Republican state Rep. Ron Hanks and the GOP’s Greg Lopez for U.S. Senate and governor, respectively, believing that Hanks and Lopez would be easier to defeat come November.

Both lost, to first-time candidate Joe O’Dea and University of Colorado regent Heidi Ganahl. So, too, did embattled Mesa County clerk and recorder Tina Peters, beaten by former clerk Pam Anderson in the GOP primary for secretary of state. Peters refused to concede, claiming elections officials had “flipped” the vote totals.

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In a state that’s trended purple over the past decade, Colorado’s congressional delegation includes two Democratic senators, with three-term Sen. Michael Bennet seeking reelection this year. Democrats hold a 4-3 advantage among U.S. representatives.

A look at Tuesday’s races:

U.S. SENATE

Businessman O’Dea, who ran as a rare Republican supporter of most abortion rights, soundly defeated Hanks, who backs a ban on the procedure in all cases. Colorado’s voters have strongly backed abortion rights, and Democrats, viewing O’Dea as a more formidable adversary to Bennet, had spent more than $2 million boosting Hanks’ candidacy in the primary.

SECRETARY OF STATE

Peters, Mesa County’s conspiracy-theorist elections clerk who’s been indicted for tampering with voting equipment, was easily defeated by Anderson, a former head of Colorado’s county clerks association, in the GOP primary. Anderson, a former clerk in Jefferson County, defends Colorado’s elections as secure. Both want to unseat Democrat Jena Griswold, a national advocate of secure elections who was uncontested in Tuesday’s primary.

GOVERNOR

Colorado’s last Republican governor was Bill Owens, who served from 1999 to 2007. Ganahl, who as regent is the GOP’s only statewide elected official, soundly beat former Parker mayor and businessman Lopez in the primary. Like Hanks, Democrats aired ads for Lopez, suggesting they view Ganahl as the stronger challenger to Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. Both candidates oppose a new state law guaranteeing access to abortion, and both welcomed the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Ganahl supports exceptions, including for rape, incest or threats to the health of the mother or fetus; Lopez opposes abortion without exceptions.

CONGRESS REPUBLICANS

First-term GOP firebrand Rep. Lauren Boebert trounced state Sen. Don Coram in the largely rural 3rd District. Boebert insisted Coram, a moderate, rancher and hemp farmer, wasn’t conservative enough for the district or for Washington; Coram said Boebert is too extreme for the traditionally conservatively centrist district.

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In El Paso County, eight-term Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn fought off a spirited primary challenge from state Rep. Dave Williams, who failed to get the phrase “Let’s Go Brandon,” code for an obscenity against President Joe Biden, added to his official name on the ballot. Also running were Navy veteran Rebecca Keltie and Colorado Springs businessman Andrew Heaton.

In the new 8th District, state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer defeated Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, former state Rep. Lori Saine and Tyler Allcorn, a small businessman and U.S. Army veteran. Kirkmeyer now faces Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, who was unopposed.

Oil and gas industry veteran Erik Aadland defeated economist and businessman Tim Reichert and Donald Trump-aligned political activist Laurel Imer in the race to challenge Democratic state Sen. Brittany Pettersen for the 7th District seat being vacated by eight-term Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter.

Four-term U.S. Rep. Ken Buck defeated first-time candidate Robert Lewis of Elbert County in the sweeping 4th District. Steven Monahan, a Navy veteran, was unopposed in suburban Denver’s 6th District. So, too, was Jennifer Qualtieri, a state party activist, in Denver’s 1st District. Engineer Marshall Dawson was alone on the GOP ballot in the 2nd District.

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CONGRESS DEMOCRATS

Denver Rep. Diana Degette easily beat first-time challenger Neal Walia in DeGette’s bid for a 14th term. Incumbents Joe Neguse and Jason Crow were unopposed in the 2nd and 6th districts, respectively. The 3rd District primary featured tech engineer Alex Walker, Aspen businessman and former city councilmember Adam Frisch and Pueblo health advocate and social worker Sol Sandoval. David Torres defeated Michael Colombe for the party nomination in the 5th District.

ATTORNEY GENERAL/TREASURER

Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser and Republican challenger John Kellner, the district attorney for Colorado’s 18th Judicial District, were unopposed, as were Democratic Treasurer Dave Young and former Republican state Rep. Lang Sias.

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This story has been updated to correct that Tina Peters is clerk of Mesa County, not El Paso County.