GOP Senate hopefuls slam Bennet, Biden in primary debate

Fort Collins developer Gino Campana takes first place in straw poll with 29%

By: - January 26, 2022 12:56 pm

Republican candidates for U.S. Senate participated in a debate at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood on Jan. 25, 2022. (Screenshot)

Developer and former Fort Collins City Councilman Gino Campana took first place with 29% support in a straw poll following a Republican Senate primary debate in Lakewood on Tuesday, the state GOP said.

Campana won 55 votes out of a total of 191 votes cast, according to a tally released by the Colorado Republican Party on Wednesday. Former talk radio host Deborah Flora placed second with 43 votes, followed by former Olympic pentathlete Eli Bremer of Colorado Springs with 37 votes and state Rep. Ron Hanks of Penrose with 31 votes.

Six GOP candidates participated in a debate hosted by the state party on the campus of Colorado Christian University, answering questions on issues including the federal budget, immigration, the Supreme Court and a potential armed conflict brewing in Ukraine. The Senate hopefuls are vying for the chance to face incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in November’s general election.


“I want to thank all of our Senate candidates for stepping up, putting their name in the ring, and participating in our system,” state GOP chair Kristi Burton Brown, one of the debate’s moderators, said in a statement. “Michael Bennet has failed in representing our state for so long, in 2022 we will restore balance and elect a Republican who will actually fight for Colorado.”

Candidates weighed in on the question of how the party can reach unaffiliated voters, who have made up a growing share of Colorado voters over the last decade. Republicans have suffered a series of lopsided defeats over the last two election cycles, including 9-point losses in the 2020 U.S. senate race and the 2018 governor’s race, but leaders are hopeful that the party will turn things around in 2022.

“As we go around the state, we need to make Michael Bennet and Joe Biden and the liberals in D.C. own what they’ve done to our country over the last year,” Campana told the crowd Tuesday. “And by doing that, we’ll win the unaffiliateds.”

“The way I see it, we tell the truth … Joe Biden is a disgrace, and Michael Bennet follows in his footsteps,” said Hanks. “The public and the population is coming into our realm here. All we have to do is speak the truth, and tell them what we believe.”

CCU professor Gregory Moore and business consultant Peter Yu also participated in Tuesday’s debate. Denver construction executive Joe O’Dea, who leads the field in fundraising, did not attend after recently undergoing back surgery.

Hanks, the only current elected official in the crowded primary field, was the winner of two previous straw polls taken after primary debates in Monument and Grand Junction earlier this month. He has frequently championed baseless conspiracy theories alleging that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and has admitted to crossing police lines while near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, during the assault on the building by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

Public opinion polling has consistently shown that more than three-quarters of Republican voters nationwide continue to doubt that President Joe Biden was the legitimate victor in the 2020 election. Allegations of widespread fraud made by Trump and other GOP leaders have been repeatedly debunked by experts and rejected by the courts.

Burton Brown and Colorado Republican operative Michael Fields, who moderated Tuesday’s debate, didn’t ask any questions relating to election denial, but Hanks used his closing statement to raise the issue.

“We have to fight for the authenticity of the last election, and make sure that election integrity is ensured for all future elections,” Hanks said to cheers and applause.

“Hanks is the center of gravity in the crowded, chaotic primary and that’s why he was center stage,” Nico Delgado, a spokesperson for the Colorado Democratic Party, said in a statement. “The other desperate candidates will have no choice but to embrace Hanks’ election conspiracy theories to win over the far-right base.”

Colorado voters will choose between the Senate hopefuls in a June 28 primary election. Candidates can qualify for the primary ballot either by collecting a certain number of petition signatures, or by going through the party assembly process, which begins with local precinct caucuses on March 1.


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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.