Ryan Lynch is a Republican campaign consultant, has owned and operated Denver-based Polstar Strategies since 2014.
Colorado native, moved frequently growing up with Army doctor dad, returned for college at University of Colorado Boulder.
Involved in CU's student government during its heyday in the early to mid Aughts, along with U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg and state Rep. Leslie Herod when they were at CU.
Earned a bachelor's degree in 2006 in Integrative Physiology from CU Boulder, a vestige of original plans to go to medical school.
Worked on or managed campaigns for Marc Holtzman (CO governor 2006), Adrian Smith (NE CD3 2006), Don Ytterberg (CO SD16 2008), John McCain (CO president 2008), Bob McDonnell (VA governor 2009), Greg Brophy (CO governor 2014), Bob Beauprez (CO governor 2014), Scott Walker (CO president 2016), Kevin Priola (CO SD25 2016), Jack Tate (CO SD27 2016), Cole Wist (CO HD37 2016), Wayne Williams (Colorado secretary of state 2018), Kevin Priola (CO SD25 2020), George Teal (Douglas County commissioner 2020), Elisa Martinez (NM Senate 2020), Elisa Martinez (NM CD1 2021).
Colorado Politics: Your father was an Army doctor and you were on track to go to medical school when you started at CU in Boulder. How did you wind up managing campaigns instead?
Ryan Lynch: While at CU, I was heavily involved in the Greek System, having served as the president of Sigma Nu Fraternity and the InterFraternity Council. My sophomore year, I received a call from U.S. Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) who informed me that he and his colleague in the House, Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Wash.) were both members of Sigma Nu and that Rep. Nethercutt's son was going through Fraternity Rush that week. Once the shock of being called by a senator wore off, I quickly understood the inference of the call. Sure enough, the congressman's kid was in our house a few days later, and needless to say, he got into the fraternity. Naturally, that led to an internship opportunity in DC in Rep. Nethercutt's office. (Fun fact: Nethercutt defeated Tom Foley in 1994, which was the first time a sitting speaker of the House was unseated since 1862.) Anyway, my internship was in the summer of 2004 and the congressman was running for the U.S. Senate against Patty Murray. So, I got to see both the policy and the political sides of the business.
Though stricken with the political bug, I had stayed on the med school track, but then in 2006, I was hired by Marc Holtzman's gubernatorial campaign. That was it, I was hooked and I never looked back.
CP: What are some of the campaigns you’ve worked on? What do they tell us about Colorado’s evolving political landscape?
Lynch: When I began my Colorado political career in 2006, Republicans were very well positioned in this state. We controlled every statewide office, the majority of the congressional delegation, and were only a (bare) minority in the state legislature. Things have certainly changed since then, but the party has still seen varying success.
I've worked two presidential campaigns, a half-dozen statewides, a handful of congressional races and quite a few legislative contests. They say you learn more from the losses than you do the wins, but I greatly prefer the wins.
As for me, it took 10 years before I had a meaningful win in my home state. I managed the campaigns of state Sens. Jack Tate and Kevin Priola in 2016, and those wins resulted in the GOP retaining control of the state Senate. Persistence is key. Even though 2020 wasn't a particularly great year for Republicans, I was still able to guide Sen. Priola to reelection in a D+7 SD25. Republicans can still win elections here.
CP: What’s your campaign style? How have you managed to get Republicans elected in a state that’s been trending more toward the Democrats, and can it work with other candidates in other races?
Lynch: Candidates, by and large, hate raising money and knocking on doors. So, to limit their ability to make excuses, I take everything off of their plate that doesn't involve those two things. There is nothing I can do on my end to overcome a candidate's lack of work ethic. I've been fortunate of late to have clients who were willing to put the necessary time into working the phones and the pavement. Messaging and targeting are important, but nothing beats good old-fashioned retail politics.
I've worked campaigns in Colorado, Virginia, Nebraska and New Mexico. I've been able to take things I've learned in other states and incorporate them into my strategy for winning Colorado elections. For example, in Nebraska, “campaign-speak" is not tolerated. Folks there want you to speak to them on their level using details, not generalities. In New Mexico primaries, the focus isn't on who's the most conservative candidate, it's on who's the most electable in the general.
I've also been fortunate to work with some of the very best consultants in Colorado, such as Michael Fortney, Andy George, Laura Teal and Lee Hopper, among others. I've learned a lot from them.
CP: The Colorado Republican Party appears to be as divided as ever following the second election cycle that saw Democrats nearly run the table in the state. What are the divisions in the party, and is there a chance the GOP can mend things and start winning elections again any time soon?
Lynch: The most prevalent divide in the GOP right now is Pro-Trump v. Never-Trump. I think both sides of that fight have become disconnected with the average voter, even the average Republican primary voter. Take the current COGOP chairman's race as an example. There's a Lincoln Project Republican running against four conservatives who are fighting over who is the most pro-Trump.
Our party cannot be about one man. We need to go back to being the party of ideas. The average voter doesn't care about how much or how little a candidate supported Trump. They care about leadership qualities and the ability of a candidate to bridge divides to get things accomplished. As a party, our primaries need to zero in on electability and not devolve into litmus tests on one's fealty to President Trump. That's not to say there's nothing we can learn from the former president's successes. Trump did an amazing job bringing non-traditional Republican voters into the fold. The Colorado GOP needs to build on those gains while concurrently recovering our recent losses in the Denver suburbs.
CP: By some measures, next year — a midterm with Democrats in complete control in the state and at the federal level — could be the best year in at least a decade for Colorado Republicans to stage a comeback. What is the likelihood that will happen?
Lynch: Despite the changing political landscape in Colorado, Republicans have done well in the last two midterms when a Democrat is in the White House. In 2010, the GOP took control of the Colorado House and flipped 2 congressional seats. Then in 2014, we took control of the Colorado Senate and elected Cory Gardner to the U.S. Senate.
Whenever there's single-party trifecta control of the federal government, there's always a push-back by the electorate. In the case of Colorado, there's also trifecta Democrat control of the state government. Between that and redistricting, there's a substantial opportunity for Republicans to make important gains in this state.
We can win if we can find a way to unite the party and nominate candidates capable of winning general elections. That doesn't necessarily mean our candidates need to be centrists. Instead, we need to focus on nominating candidates who have a profound work ethic, strong leadership qualities and the ability to deliver their message to a broad group of voters.
CP: Plenty of people look at Kevin Priola’s win in a difficult swing district last year and say he could help lead the party out of the wilderness. Since he turns to you for political advice, what would you tell him right now about a 2022 run for governor or the U.S. Senate?
Lynch: Sen. Priola would make a great statewide candidate. He's a hard-worker, a good person and he genuinely cares about the livelihoods of the residents in his district. Priola is successful because he's never forgotten who he is and where he came from.
Even if it's not Priola at the top of the 2022 Republican ticket, whoever it is needs to take a page right out of the Priola playbook. That means listening to and engaging with your electorate.
CP: Campaigning can be really intense. In the down time between races, how do you recharge?
Lynch: I'm an all-Colorado sports fanatic. Depending on the season, you can probably find me at Folsom Field, Mile High, Coors Field or Ball Arena. Go Buffs.