Delegates and attendees wait in line to enter the Colorado Republican Party’s state assembly in Colorado Springs on April 9, 2022. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)
Colorado Republican candidates who have promoted baseless claims of election fraud, including one who was recently indicted on felony counts, dominated at the party’s state assembly Saturday.
Democrats on Saturday also held their state party assembly, though it was a largely uneventful, since incumbents went mostly unchallenged.
The assemblies were the culmination of the grassroots caucus and assembly process to select candidates who will appear on the parties’ primary ballots. Candidates in Colorado have two routes to the primary ballot: by gathering enough support during the assembly process or by collecting enough signatures from voters registered with their party. With Saturday’s assemblies, primary candidates are largely decided, though several candidates who have submitted petitions have yet to hear whether they have qualified for the ballot.
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Primary elections, when members of the same party vie for a spot on the general election ballot, will be held on June 28. The general election is on Nov. 8.
While the Democrats held a virtual assembly that clocked in at just under three hours, Republicans gathered in Colorado Springs for a traditional in-person event that lasted most of the day, featuring clashes between delegates and party leadership over voting procedures and several surprise results.
Candidates for the Republican primary
Saturday’s Republican assembly was delayed by nearly an hour as long lines of delegates, volunteers and other attendees waited to pass through security at the Broadmoor World Arena.
Inside the venue over the course of the day, any expectation that election conspiracists would be frustrated were dashed. Governor candidate Greg Lopez, U.S. Senate candidate Ron Hanks, and secretary of state candidate Tina Peters all came away with the most support of delegates. Lopez has expressed doubt about the 2020 presidential election; Hanks, a state representative, repeatedly advances conspiracy theories about the election and crossed police lines during the Jan. 6 insurrection; and Peters, the Mesa County clerk and recorder, was indicted by a grand jury for her alleged role in an election security breach in her own office.
Earl Hood, a retired trucker from Fort Lupton, said he was at the assembly to hear how candidates plan to “restore our liberties that they’ve stolen from us.”
“What can you do that you don’t have to ask the government permission for?” said Hood. “You can’t drive a car, you can’t build a house, you can’t do nothing — you can’t even build a fence. Back when I was growing up, you never had that.”
Hood added: “One thing that turns me plum off is when a candidate starts talking about race … Race is something that will shut me down right now, because there’s no such thing as racism. … What race do you belong to? The human race.”
Votes from the 3,749 assembled delegates narrowed down the field of candidates for five statewide races.
- Onetime Parker mayor Greg Lopez took the top ballot line in the primary for governor. He will run against University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl, an entrepreneur who is Colorado’s only remaining statewide GOP elected official.
- Indicted Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters won 62% of the assembly vote to secure the the top ballot line in the secretary of state primary. She will face little-known Yuma County candidate Mike O’Donnell and former Jefferson County clerk Pam Anderson.
- John Kellner, district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, will face Stanley Thorne, a conservative lawyer, in the primary for attorney general.
- Former state Rep. Lang Sias of Arvada is the party’s lone candidate for state treasurer.
- In the U.S. Senate race, state Rep. Ron Hanks of Cañon City was the only candidate to meet the 30% threshold required to qualify for the primary ballot through the assembly process. He will face Denver construction executive Joe O’Dea, who qualified through petitions, in the June primary.
Republicans also chose their nominees for congressional primaries in a series of district assemblies prior to Saturday. No Republican candidates are running in the 1st, 2nd and 6th Congressional Districts.
- In the 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Lauren Boebert made the ballot via assembly. State Rep. Don Coram plans to qualify through petition signatures, which have not yet been validated.
- In the 4th Congressional District, Bob Lewis, a real estate broker from Elbert County, took the top spot in the assembly nominating process with 62% support, setting up a primary challenge against four-term incumbent Rep. Ken Buck.
- In the 5th Congressional District, state Rep. Dave Williams secured the top ballot line in his primary challenge against eight-term incumbent Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn.
- In the 7th Congressional District, Erik Aadland won the top ballot line with 63% of the assembly vote. He will face Laurel Imer and Tim Reichert in the primary. Brad Dempsey and Carl Anderson have submitted petition signatures which have not yet been validated.
- In the new 8th Congressional District, Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine won the top ballot line via the assembly, and will face state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann and Army veteran Tyler Allcorn in the primary.
Expected outcome from Democratic assembly
The virtual Colorado Democratic Party state assembly was low on controversy, as every major statewide office is held by a Democrat and those incumbents are all running for reelection. Still, chair Morgan Carroll stressed the importance of Democratic turnout in June and November in the face of well-funded Republican opponents.
“Everything we talked about today is at risk,” she said after delegates voted on candidates and the party’s platform. She said that in 2018, Democrats were elected to every statewide office for the first time since 1936.
“Colorado is a blue state, and you guys made it look blue. But we have voters who vote in presidential years that we need to turn out in midterms. We have eligible voters who are not yet registered to vote. That is going to take all of us.”
Only Sen. Michael Bennet faced the possibility of having a primary opponent, political science professor Karen Breslin, but she did not receive 30% of the delegate vote and therefore did not make the ballot.
- Incumbent Gov. Jared Polis made the primary ballot as the only nominee. He will run unopposed.
- Incumbent Secretary of State Jena Griswold made the primary ballot as the only nominee. She will run unopposed.
- Incumbent Attorney General Phil Weiser made the primary ballot as the only nominee. He will run unopposed.
- Incumbent Treasurer Dave Young made the primary ballot as the only nominee. He will run unopposed.
- Kathy Plomer made the primary ballot for an at-large seat on the Board of Education as the only nominee. She will run unopposed.
- Incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet made the primary ballot with 80.1% of the delegate vote. He will run unopposed, as Karen Breslin did not meet the 30% threshold to advance.
Congressional candidates for those who did not petition to be on the ballot were chosen at separate assemblies on April 5.
- In the 1st Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Diana DeGette made the ballot via assembly. Neal Walia submitted a petition but it has not yet been processed.
- In the 2nd Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Joe Neguse made the ballot via assembly.
- In the 3rd Congressional District, Sol Sandoval made the ballot via assembly. Alex Walker and Adam Frisch made the ballot via petition. Scott Yates’ petition has not yet been processed.
- In the 4th Congressional District, Ike McCorkle made the ballot via assembly.
- In the 5th Congressional District, Michael Columbe and David Torres made the ballot via assembly
- In the 6th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Jason Crow made the ballot via assembly.
- In the 7th Congressional District, state Sen. Brittany Pettersen made the ballot via assembly.
- In the new 8th Congressional District, state Rep. Yadira Caraveo made the ballot via assembly and petition.
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