Far-right Senate candidate Ron Hanks’ profile raised with Democratic group’s $1.5 million ad buy
TV spot highlights Republican’s record as ‘one of the most conservative’ state lawmakers
State Rep. Ron Hanks fires a rifle in a video his U.S. Senate campaign released in October 2021. (Screenshot from Ron Hanks for U.S. Senate)
Colorado state Rep. Ron Hanks, the far-right Penrose lawmaker vying for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, has lagged far behind his rivals in fundraising throughout his campaign. But with weeks to go before votes are counted in the June 28 primary, he may get a boost from an unlikely source — a brand-new Democratic-backed super PAC running TV ads highlighting his conservative bona fides.
A group calling itself Democratic Colorado, which filed registration paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on June 2, has reserved at least $1.49 million worth of TV advertising slots in markets across Colorado over the next several weeks, records show.
Recordings of an ad funded by the group shared on social media Wednesday showed a spot that nominally attacks Hanks for being “one of the most conservative members in the statehouse” and “too conservative for Colorado.”
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But establishment Republicans, many of whom are backing Hanks’ GOP primary rival Joe O’Dea, are furious about the group’s last-minute intervention, which they say is a transparent attempt to raise Hanks’ profile and secure a more favorable general-election matchup for incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet.
“One of the most underhanded, dishonest tactics in modern politics is propping up the weaker candidate in your opponent’s primary and hoping nobody notices,” Rob Witwer, a former Republican state lawmaker and energy lobbyist, wrote on Twitter Tuesday.
“We are an organization committed to ensuring that Colorado does not elect a Republican to the U.S. Senate and giving voters the facts about who’s running to represent them,” Alvina Vasquez, a spokesperson for Democratic Colorado, said in a statement. “Ron Hanks is simply too conservative for Colorado and voters deserve to know the truth about him.”
The group’s next FEC reporting deadline is July 20, meaning that the winner of this month’s primary will be decided well before any official campaign finance information regarding Democratic Colorado’s spending and funding sources is publicly disclosed.
Hanks, a controversial first-term lawmaker who was present outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, was the only Senate hopeful to advance to the primary ballot out of the GOP’s state assembly in April, defeating five other candidates and securing the top ballot line with 39% of the assembly vote. He faces Denver construction CEO Joe O’Dea, who qualified for the primary through petition signatures and has staked out a more moderate platform on certain issues, including support for limited abortion rights.
By contrast, Democratic Colorado’s ad highlights Hanks’ conservative views on multiple issues, including his support for a total abortion ban and his belief that the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate.
Polling has shown that more than three-quarters of Republican voters continue to believe the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. By a similar margin, GOP voters told a CNN pollster last month that they would oppose a congressional effort to codify abortion rights in federal law, as O’Dea has said he would support.
Hanks has touted his “grassroots” support among the conservative base, including endorsements from prominent figures in the far-right election denial movement, like FEC United founder Joe Oltmann. In addition to his assembly win, he’s consistently been backed by Republican voters in informal straw polls, including the one conducted at last weekend’s Western Conservative Summit.
But Hanks has struggled to raise campaign funds, reporting just $27,392 in total contributions through the first quarter of 2022, along with a $30,000 personal loan to his campaign.
Documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission indicate that Democratic Colorado plans to spend at least $1.49 million on ads in Colorado in June, with $870,833 of that total reserved in the Denver market and the rest split between Colorado Springs and Grand Junction.
In a statement released by his campaign Wednesday, O’Dea said the ad buy was a desperate move by “far-left groups” who want to deny him the nomination and cost Republicans a shot at a Senate seat.
“The Democrats’ only hope of winning Colorado,” he said, “is a multi-million act of desperation – hijacking the Republican nomination for an unserious candidate who has zero chance of winning.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 1:47 p.m. June 8, 2022, to include a statement from Democratic Colorado.
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