Republican candidates for Colorado governor share policy goals as state assembly approaches
Ganahl, Lopez and others discuss gas prices, abortion bill at El Paso County debate
Republican candidates for governor participate in a debate in Colorado Springs on March 15, 2022. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)
Eight Republican gubernatorial candidates shared largely similar viewpoints during a lengthy debate Tuesday evening, just under a month before the Colorado party’s state assembly to select candidates to appear on the primary ballot.
The event, sponsored by the El Paso County Republican Women, featured candidates Zach Burck, Laurie Clark, Jack Dillender, Jeff Fry, Heidi Ganahl, Darryl Gibbs, Greg Lopez and Danielle Neuschwanger.
Ganahl continued to tout her record of statewide electoral success as evidence of her qualifications. The “mom on a mission,” as she calls herself, was elected to the University of Colorado Board of Regents in 2016. She and Greg Lopez, who is the former mayor of Parker, are the only Republican candidates who have held elected office.
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“While I respect the other candidates, there are stark differences between us, the primary one being … I won statewide just a few years ago and I’ll do it again this fall,” Ganahl told the crowd of a few hundred at Centennial Hall in Colorado Springs.
The debate questions covered the typical Republican hot topics, such as how to strengthen law enforcement, how to lift up rural voices and which curriculum is appropriate in schools.
Responding to a question about the biggest economic issues Colorado faces, both Lopez and Neuschwanger said they would support increased oil and gas operations. Gas prices are surging worldwide due to disruption of the global oil supply as Russia continues its invasion into Ukraine.
“First and foremost, we need to bring back operations, which we can do through geothermal drilling and partner with the clean energy people on this to get our operations back. Once operations are back, we lift the permitting processes and we bring oil and gas back to Colorado forever,” Neuschwanger said.
Colorado oil producers are currently sitting on 3,000 approved drilling permits, though industry leaders have indicated that ramped up operations in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis are unlikely.
Lopez and Ganahl also expressed support for small businesses. Lopez said he would remove “all the current regulations that are choking small businesses.”
“Those are the things that the governor can do,” he said. “Small business is the heart and soul of every community. If you do not have small business, you do not have a community. Right now, they are ripping apart our fabric as it pertains to our main streets.”
Abortion bill draws criticism
Candidates also faced a question about abortion, and they all described themselves as “pro-life” in their answers. The Colorado House of Representatives passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act on March 14 to codify reproductive rights, including abortion, into law. Lopez said he spoke during public testimony at a committee hearing against the bill. Ganahl submitted written testimony.
“I am disgusted and heartbroken that we are going to have one of the most radical legislative pieces of abortion bills in the country here in Colorado,” Ganahl said. She has been quiet so far on the campaign trail about her anti-abortion stance but made similar comments during a March 8 candidate forum in Douglas County.
“This is not what the people of Colorado want,” she said Tuesday. “As a mom, I know that other moms are not OK with this. I don’t think they understand what is going on at the Capitol right now, and I agree that we should absolutely put this forward to the voters.”
Lopez said that the bill is “indication that we have lost our moral compass in Colorado” and also wants to put the question to voters.
“As governor, I’m going to rally the people and we’re going to put this on the ballot to make sure the people truly understand what they want Colorado to do,” he said.
The candidates were asked about what it means to be a “conservative Republican,” and also about how to court the state’s unaffiliated voters, who do not label themselves and could sway towards middle-of-the-road politics.
They all mostly explained that conservatism has to do with defending the Constitution and spoke about preserving personal rights, rather than the traditional Republican viewpoint of limited government and less spending.
“I am tired of Republicans who go along to get along because it is easy, and they are too afraid to stand up when times get difficult. I don’t think I would die for my party, but I would die defending the Constitution,” Neuschwanger said.
Ganahl said that as a conservative, she will trust her constituents to make their own decisions about their life, family, health and education.
In other notable answers from the night, Neuschwanger said she would designate all Colorado law enforcement personnel as immigration agents, Lopez suggested using the mobile COVID-19 vaccine bus model to deliver health care services to rural veterans, and Fry indicated he wanted to double the Colorado State Patrol.
The Colorado Republican’s state assembly will be held on April 9 in Colorado Springs. Candidates have two ways to get on the primary ballot: either through the assembly process or by petitioning. Ganahl is the only candidate to submit a petition to the secretary of state’s office, but the office has yet to determine if those signatures are sufficient.
Ganahl leads the Republican candidates in fundraising with approximately $650,000 in total contributions. Lopez reports approximately $69,000 in contributions and Neuschwanger has reported approximately $50,000, according to campaign finance reports.
A February poll conducted by the Global Strategy Group, which largely serves Democratic clients, found Neuschwanger outperforming Ganahl in a head-to-head race against Polis by three percentage points.
The primary election will be on June 28 and the general election will be on Nov. 8.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. on March 17 to reflect that Heidi Ganahl submitted written testimony during the committee hearing for the Reproductive Health Equity Act, and did not speak during public testimony. The reporter made the error.
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