With six months to go, 2022 state legislative primaries come into focus

11 House and Senate districts to host competitive primaries in June

By: - December 28, 2021 5:00 am
Colorado Capitol

The Colorado State Capitol dome peeks above the foliage at Civic Center Park on June 11, 2020. (Andy Bosselman for Newsline)

Already, a long list of candidates from both major parties have announced plans to run for Michael Bennet’s U.S. Senate seat or Lauren Boebert’s 3rd Congressional District. Each party will hold a primary election next June, and Colorado’s recent move to allow open primaries means unaffiliated voters can cast a ballot in either one.

There’s not quite as much competition — at least not yet — for seats in the Colorado General Assembly, but a few key legislative districts across the state will also host intra-party contests.

With the redistricting process complete, and six months left until the primary election on June 28, those legislative primary races are starting to take shape. Voters in at least 11 House and Senate districts across the state can expect to choose between two or more candidates from the same party. In 2020, there were five competitive Senate primaries and 14 competitive House primaries.

Here’s a preview of the June 2022 races based on paperwork filed with the Colorado secretary of state’s office.

Democratic Senate primaries

In Senate District 3, Democrats Nick Hinrichsen and Jason Muñoz have both filed for election. Hinrichsen, an Army veteran who’s married to former state Rep. Bri Buentello, currently works as the operations supervisor for Pueblo Transit. Muñoz unsuccessfully ran to represent Pueblo in the state House of Representatives in 2016. District 3 leans blue, with Democrats enjoying a 5.1% advantage, according to an analysis by nonpartisan redistricting staff.

Tony Exum
Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, speaks on the House floor during second reading of the 2021-2022 long bill on April 14, 2021. (Faith Miller/Colorado Newsline)

Senate District 11 — one of the most competitive districts in the state following redistricting — is headed for a Democratic primary election, with state Rep. Tony Exum and Colorado Springs City Councilor Yolanda Avila both having filed to run for the seat. Notably, paperwork filed by Republican state Sen. Dennis Hisey, who currently represents District 2, shows he moved into District 11 and plans to run next November. Democrats have a 2.4% advantage in the Colorado Springs district.

The Democratic primary for the redrawn Senate District 24 features two candidates familiar with the state legislature: current state Rep. Kyle Mullica of Federal Heights and former state Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton. Mullica works as an emergency room nurse when he’s not legislating. Since leaving office in 2018, Salazar has served as the executive director of anti-fracking group Colorado Rising. The district has a strong 9.1% Democratic lean, so the winner of the June primary has a good chance of emerging as victor in November.

Republican House primaries

In Jefferson County’s House District 25, retired schoolteacher Dede Wagner and incumbent Rep. Colin Larson both filed to run on the GOP ticket in 2022. This is one of the most competitive districts in the state, with a 1.8% Republican advantage. Wagner, a retired schoolteacher from Indian Hills, says she’s running “to help save our nation and state from the destructive ideologies and policies being implemented by Socialists/Communists masquerading as Democrats.”

Larson owns a coffee shop in Littleton. He was elected to represent House District 22 but now resides in the redrawn District 25, where he’s running for a third term. Larson has sponsored legislation extending takeout and delivery alcohol, supported a bill to suspend some statewide testing requirements during the pandemic, and advocated for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities at the state Capitol.

Two Republicans have also filed to run in Castle Rock’s House District 45: Bill Jack, co-founder of Worldview Academy, a Christian leadership training program for students; and Gregory Smith. The district is home to outgoing state Rep. Patrick Neville, a Republican who is in his fourth term and therefore isn’t eligible to run again. Republicans here enjoy a healthy 27% advantage based on the analysis by nonpartisan redistricting staff.

Following redistricting, House District 54 is home to incumbent state Rep. Matt Soper, a Delta Republican, and GOP statehouse hopeful Nina Anderson of Grand Junction. Both have filed to run for the House seat in 2022. Soper works as a writer and researcher, while Nina Anderson is the owner and CEO of Express Employment Professionals, a staffing agency in Grand Junction and Montrose. On her website, Anderson says she aims to protect “Western Colorado’s Jobs and way of life.” The winner of the June primary has good chances in November — Republicans are favored by 45% in HD 54.

Soper was first elected to represent the district in 2018. At the Capitol, he has sponsored legislation expanding the ability of child sexual misconduct survivors to sue their abusers later in life. He unsuccessfully tried to ban voter-mandated gray wolf reintroduction in counties that rejected a 2020 ballot measure, and he sponsored a bill to legalize human composting in Colorado.

Another Republican primary is set to feature Cindy Ficklin and Patricia Weber, who are both running to represent House District 55. Ficklin is a real estate agent from Grand Junction whose past Facebook posts reportedly cast doubt on the ability of masks and vaccines to protect against COVID-19 and promoted conspiracy theories. Her opponent, Weber, is a Grand Junction radiologist who has served on the central committee of the Mesa County Republican Party.

Democratic House primaries

Primary voters in Denver’s solid blue House District 6 will choose from Democratic candidates Katie March, Sean Camacho and Elisabeth Epps. House Speaker Alec Garnett, a Denver Democrat who is term-limited, has endorsed March, who’s worked for his office in various roles at the Capitol. Camacho is an attorney who serves in the Air Force Reserve, while Epps is the founder and executive director of the Colorado Freedom Fund, which helps pay bonds for people awaiting trial in jail.

In House District 17, which leans blue, Colorado Springs residents Regina English and Mischa Smith are both running for the Democratic ticket. The winner of the June primary will hold a 12.8% advantage over their Republican opponent in the general election. English currently serves on the Harrison School District Two Board of Education, and Smith has worked as a scheduler and director of El Paso County outreach for U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper.

House District 37 features two Democratic candidates thus far: Ken Stable and Ruby Dickson. Stable, a University of Denver law student, says he’s running for office “to give back to our community, and to make sure every Colorado kid has the same opportunities I did to break the cycle of poverty and build a better life.” Dickson works as an economist “focused on poverty alleviation and climate conservation,” according to her website. She plans to work on climate change policies that create jobs and reduce energy bills. The district has a comfortable 7% advantage for Democrats.

In Aurora’s House District 42, four candidates — Kyle Leggott, Eric Nelson, Debra Hunter Holen and Gail Pough — are vying for the Democratic ticket. Leggott is a family medicine doctor at UCHealth, and Nelson a former at-large member of the Aurora Public Schools Board of Education. Hunter Holen formerly served on Aurora’s City Council. Pough, who recently retired, worked for 18 years as a fire inspector with the city of Aurora and South Metro Fire Rescue, according to Colorado Politics.

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Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Reporter Faith Miller covers the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories for Colorado Newsline.

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