GOP candidates for Colorado governor discuss policy priorities in Weld County forum

Heidi Ganahl did not attend after testing positive for COVID-19

By: - January 7, 2022 1:52 pm

Gubernatorial candidates (from left to right) Greg Lopez, Jason Lopez, Danielle Neuschwanger, Jeff Fry and Jon Gray-Ginsberg participate in a forum in Fort Lupton on Jan. 6, 2021. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)

Five Republican candidates for governor shared their vision for Colorado’s future, as well as ample criticism for incumbent Gov. Jared Polis, during the first forum of the primary season on Thursday night. 

The ticketed forum in Fort Lupton, hosted by the Republican Women of Weld and moderated by Republican consultant Dick Wadhams, featured candidates Greg Lopez, Jason Lopez, Danielle Neuschwanger, Jeff Fry and Jon Gray-Ginsberg.

Heidi Ganahl, the Republican fundraising frontrunner, tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week and did not attend.

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The eight other Republican candidates registered with the secretary of state’s office were not in attendance. 

None of the candidates directly answered a question about whether they thought the 2020 election was stolen, a conspiracy theory in conservative politics that perpetuates the lie that massive electoral fraud denied former President Donald Trump a second term. Ganahl has previously refused to say whether she thinks the election was stolen.

Most of the candidates at the forum instead offered strategies to reduce widespread voter fraud, of which there is no evidence of in Colorado. 

“My administration would not fund any more voting machines in the state,” Fry said. “We aren’t going to do that anymore. We’ll do it the old-fashioned way so we know it’s correct.”

Most Colorado counties use machines from Dominion Voting Systems to tabulate results from the millions of ballots collected. Those results are auditable and leave a paper trail. 

Jason Lopez landed on the other end of the technological spectrum, suggesting implementation of blockchain technology in Colorado’s voting process in order to “ensure 100% accuracy.” Denver has allowed voters living overseas to use the Voatz phone application, which uses blockchain technology, in pilot programs.

The candidates also criticized Polis’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed over 10,000 Coloradans. 

“It’s clear: the governor’s misguided policies have hurt Colorado beyond comparison,” Greg Lopez said. “I don’t think Governor Polis is a bad person, but he has shown us his incompetence.” He is the former Colorado district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration and former director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver.

He criticized restrictions early in the pandemic that closed small businesses and schools and said the mental health implications of the pandemic have not yet been realized.

Neuschwanger, who referred to COVID-19 as the “China-virus (that) escaped from the Wuhan lab,” said she would have taken stock of the state’s personal protective equipment supply in December 2019 as reports of the novel coronavirus first appeared.

“I would have started looking at PPE prep right then and there, talking to my local hospitals about the possibility if this were to get to the United States,” she said. “What are our incident command plans? What do we have available in local resources?”

Additionally, she said she would have used Colorado’s military presence and population and set up “forward-operating testing facilities.”

“If we can win wars and treat gunshot wounds in foreign countries in desert storms, we should be able to test for a cold-like symptom in Colorado,” she said. Colorado was able to test for COVID-19 in late February 2020, but experts agree the virus had been circulating in the state before then. 

Answering a question about transportation priorities, Greg Lopez suggested that the state purchases E-470 and eliminates tolls. The highway is owned by Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties and the municipalities of Aurora, Brighton, Commerce City, Parker and Thornton.

“We could take off all kinds of traffic on I-25 by making E-470 a public road,” he said. 

Jason Lopez said the state needs to accelerate its infrastructure investment in light of its population growth. While that includes focus in city centers, he said it’s also important to consider rural needs.

“I understand bikes and certain other transportation within the Denver metropolitan area, but we need to build a connector to our rural communities as well, so people have infrastructure even further out, to come in, or from in to go out,” he said. 

The candidates also discussed preserving the state’s oil and gas industry, prioritizing rural investments and ramping up wildfire prevention in light of the Marshall Fire. 

Neuschwanger won a straw poll among the roughly 100 attendees who voted immediately following the forum, followed by Greg Lopez.

The entire forum is available to watch on the Republican Women of Weld’s Facebook page.

The Republican primary is set for June 28. The nominee will then face Polis in the general election on Nov. 8, 2022. 

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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