Bremer, Aadland take early fundraising lead in crowded GOP Senate field

Sen. Bennet raises more than $2 million in third quarter

By: - October 18, 2021 5:00 am

U.S. Sen. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) walks through the Senate Subway during a vote on June 22, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Two first-time political candidates have jumped out to an early fundraising lead in Colorado’s increasingly crowded 2022 Republican U.S. Senate primary, campaign finance disclosures show.

Eli Bremer, a former Olympic pentathlete and Air Force Reserves officer from Colorado Springs, led the field with $253,837 raised in the third quarter of 2021, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Bremer announced his candidacy in August.


He was trailed by Erik Aadland, a former oil and gas executive and Army veteran from Jefferson County who was among the first GOP hopefuls to announce a challenge against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in June. Aadland reported raising a total of $185,555 through the end of the third quarter.

Bremer and Aadland lead a GOP primary field that has more than doubled in size in recent weeks, most notably with the entry of state Rep. Ron Hanks, a Cañon City lawmaker who was present outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection and has repeatedly made false claims that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent. Hanks declared his candidacy on Oct. 1, just after the end of the third-quarter fundraising period.

Colorado state Rep. Ron Hanks speaks in the state House on May 22, 2021. (Screenshot from The Colorado Channel)

Other Republicans announcing Senate bids in recent weeks include Denver construction executive Joe O’Dea, former Fort Collins City Council member Gino Campana and Deborah Flora, a host at right-wing radio station 710 KNUS.

GOP candidates face an uphill battle in Colorado, which has trended increasingly Democratic in recent statewide elections. Sen. John Hickenlooper defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner by nine points in the 2020 election, while President Joe Biden won the state by an even wider margin.

Bennet’s challengers will also need to overcome a significant fundraising gap. The Democrat, who was first appointed to his seat in 2009 before winning reelection in 2010 and 2016, reported total contributions of more than $2 million in the third quarter, and now boasts more than $3.5 million in cash on hand.

“Michael’s campaign is off to a historically strong start, with grassroots donations from each one of Colorado’s 64 counties,” said Bennet campaign manager Justin Lamorte.

Election denial predominates

Hanks became the first — and, so far, only — current elected officeholder to join the race for Senate earlier this month, kicking off his campaign with an announcement video in which he fired a rifle at a piece of office equipment labeled “Dominion Voting Machine,” a reference to a debunked far-right election conspiracy theory.

Hanks, part of a group of right-wing GOP lawmakers at the state Capitol who launched an unsuccessful challenge to House Minority Leader Hugh McKean’s leadership earlier this year, has frequently repeated baseless claims of election fraud. He traveled to Arizona during the state’s controversial “audit” of its election results and has promoted a QAnon-linked documentary filmed during the proceedings there.

“We just cannot go down this road,” Bremer told KNUS host Peter Boyles following Hanks’ announcement video. “We need to fight for the heart and soul of the Colorado electorate and not engage in QAnon conspiracy theories.”

Bremer expressed confidence that “in Colorado the (election) results that were reported are correct,” though he has also declined to answer questions about whether he accepts the results of the 2020 election nationwide.

Aadland, meanwhile, has repeated false claims that the 2020 election was “absolutely rigged.” Campana, in an interview with Colorado Politics shortly after his announcement, said without evidence that “there were a ton of problems in the last election.”

Nearly two-thirds of Aadland’s campaign cash has come in the form of personal loans totaling $112,000, according to FEC data.

Another GOP hopeful, Windsor business consultant Peter Yu, has also contributed $50,000 in personal loans to his campaign, disclosures show. Yu, who suffered a 27-point defeat to Rep. Joe Neguse in the 2nd Congressional District race in 2018, reported total receipts of $131,810.


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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Chase Woodruff is a senior reporter for Colorado Newsline. His beats include the environment, money in politics, and the economy.