The red line dividing Republican candidates who believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump and those who insist Joe Biden legitimately won may have influenced Colorado voters in Tuesday’s primary election.
In determining which of their party mates in contested party races will appear on the Nov. 8 midterm ballot, Republican voters appear to have rejected those who sided with Trump on the issue, notably state Rep. Ron Hanks, Greg Lopez and Tina Peters.
All three were headed for defeat in their bids, if early results from the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office hold.
The 'sanity slate' prevailed
Doug Friednash, an attorney with Brownstein and former chief of staff to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, told Colorado Politics the Republicans’ “sanity slate” prevailed, with Heidi Ganahl, Joe O’Dea and Pam Anderson poised to win their respective races.
“The big question for me was — it seems it’s a very favorable political climate for Republicans — if they could take advantage of it. Can they put themselves in a position where they could win in November?” Friednash said. “My expectation was the Democratic tactics would have a bigger impact in that the Republicans were less likely to nominate candidates that could get elected (in November).
“(But) they put themselves in a really strong position for some key races in the state,” he added. “I think their ‘sanity slate’ prevailed.”
Ganahl, of Lone Tree, a University of Colorado regent thought by many conservatives as having the best chance of defeating incumbent Gov. Jared Polis, surged ahead of Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg Lopez, an Air Force veteran and former mayor who lives in Elizabeth, by a 53% to 47% margin, according to unofficial tallies.
In the secretary of state race, former Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder Pam Anderson captured 44% of the vote, a significant plurality, leading candidates Mike O’Donnell and Tina Peters, the Mesa County clerk and recorder indicted in March over charges of election tampering and misconduct. Secretary of State Jena Griswold, the Democratic nominee, successfully persuaded a judge to prohibit Peters from overseeing Mesa County’s 2022 primary and general elections. It’s the second time the same judge has barred Peters from having an oversight role in the county’s elections, following a similar ruling last fall that prevented Peters from managing the off-year election.
Hanks, meanwhile, trailed John O’Dea, who secured 55% of the vote in unofficial results in the U.S. Senate primary. O’Dea, if declared the winner, will face Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who has held the seat since November, 2009.
While establishment candidates fended off challenges from Trump-aligned Republicans in statewide races, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, an outspoken conservative and Trump supporter representing Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, emerged victorious with 65% of the votes over opponent Don Coram, a state senator from Montrose.
The Democratic nominee to challenge Boebert appeared to be Adam Frisch, who held a 3% point lead over Sol Sandoval of Pueblo, with Alex Walker of Eagle County a distant third. That race, however, remained too close to call as of 9 p.m.
About 23% of the state’s 3,756,579 active voters returned their ballots, according to turnout statistics.
Confidence in system
Voters’ preference for Republican candidates that did not support major election reforms, such as a return to hand-counting ballots, shows confidence in the system, said El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman.
“I think this election once and for all communicates we do elections right,” he said.
Up to 99% of El Paso County voters returned their ballots by mail, Broerman said, showing they have confidence in the system, he said.
Lamborn tops Williams
In other results, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, who has represented the 5th Congressional district of El Paso and Teller counties in Washington, D.C., for 15 years, will take on Democrat challenger David Torres, who prevailed over Michael Colombe.
Lamborn topped Dave Williams, a House representative from Colorado Springs, with a margin of 50% to 31%, with two other candidates trailing.
Lamborn is positioning himself for a possible bigger role on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Armed Services Committee if Republicans take back majority control of the House in the fall.
Fourth Congressional District U.S. Rep. Ken Buck of Windsor was handily winning against contender Robert Lewis.
Other congressional incumbents also succeeded, including Democrat Diana DeGette of District 1, and state legislators such as Rep. Tony Exum Sr. of District 17, who is now running for the state Senate in District 11, and Republican State Sen. Paul Lundeen in District 9. Other likely winners are Erik Aadland, for the 7th Congressional District, Regina English in state House District 17, and Rose Pugliese in state House District 14.
'Freedom doctor' falls
Dr. Leon Kelly, a forensic pathologist and the seated El Paso County coroner, won the high-stakes Republican bid for the highest-paid elected office in the county by a wide margin.
Kelly was ahead of Dr. Rae Ann Weber, an osteopath and “freedom doctor,” with 69% of the vote in early tallies. Weber cited overinflated COVID death numbers and procedures in her bid, while Kelly cited her inexperience and said Weber would need training for new coroners and need to become a certified death investigator.
Both have spent roughly the same amount of money on their campaigns. Kelly raised $54,441 as of Friday’s financial reporting cycle and spent $22,336. Weber spent $21,604, with no contributions listed.
The job pays $290,000.10 this year, according to an El Paso County spokesperson, making the coroner the county’s highest-paid elected official.
Kelly will face Democratic challenger Bridget Garner in November.
Roybal gets the nod
Current El Paso County Undersheriff Joe Roybal likely will prevail in overcoming two Republican opponents who ran on a “constitutional sheriff” platform.
Roybal, who got 60% of the vote, was ahead of former U.S. Border Patrol agent Todd Watkins, who secured 22% of the vote, and Greg Maxwell, director of security at The Broadmoor hotel, who had 18%. Roybal will face Democrat John Foley for the job, which pays $153,331.88 this year.
Roybal was the biggest spender at $44,104, having raised $51,841, according to campaign finance reports. Maxwell spent $35,416 of $39,812 raised, and Watkins spent $11,033 of $13,077 raised, reports show.
El Paso County Commissioners Holly Williams and Cami Bremer each were headed for victory over Republican opponents Lindsay Moore and David Winney, respectively.
El Paso County Assessor Steve Schleiker led Peter Lupia for the Clerk and Recorder nomination, 68% to 32%. Lupia had proposed massive changes, including returning to hand-counting ballots and eliminating automated tabulations.
And Broerman, the El Paso County clerk, overtook Gina Trivelli, El Paso County deputy treasurer, for the county treasurer nomination, having garnered 66% of the vote.