A Republican state lawmaker who attended the Jan. 6 protest at the U.S. Capitol and has repeatedly questioned the results of the 2020 election is joining the crowded GOP primary field for Colorado's U.S. Senate seat.
State Rep. Ron Hanks, R-Cañon City, filed paperwork on Friday to run for the seat held by Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in next year's election, becoming the sixth Republican to throw his hat in the ring.
Hanks confirmed he was running in a phone interview with Colorado Politics but said he didn't have any further comment, adding that he plans an announcement in the coming days.
"The U.S. Senate race needs to be shaken up a bit," Hanks said in a text message. "As the great Paul Harvey used to say, 'Stand by for news!'"
Hanks has been at the center of controversy at the statehouse since taking office in January, a week after he joined thousands of then-President Donald Trump's supporters at a rally the same day Congress met to certify Joe Biden's election. The lawmaker's presence at the rally sparked an unsuccessful attempt by a Democrat to expel him from the legislature.
Hanks repeatedly clashed with House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, including helping lead an unsuccessful "no confidence" vote against the Republican leader on the last night of the session and threatening to injure McKean during a tense late-night caucus meeting.
Last week, Hanks was among dozens of state lawmakers from around the country who signed on to a letter calling to throw out the results of the 2020 presidential election if enough states can't pass a review modeled on the so-called forensic audit recently completed by Trump supporters in Arizona.
"This is our historic obligation restore the election integrity of the vote as the bedrock of our constitutional republic," the letter read.
Hanks' repeated insistence that the election was stolen from Trump led his hometown county clerk, Republican Justin Grantham, to call out Hanks in a letter that cited multiple "serous threats" made against election workers based on "misinformation being spread."
Fort Collins developer Gino Campana announced his intention to run for Bennet's seat Thursday. Others in the race are Olympian and former El Paso County GOP official Eli Bremer, former oil and gas executive Erik Aadland, former congressional candidate Peter Yu and political newcomer Juli Henry.
Bennet, who was appointed to the Senate in 2009, is seeking a third full term. Election forecasters so far rate Colorado as safely Democratic, though Bennet has been pointing to pundits who say his re-election bid could be competitive.
State Democratic chair Morgan Carroll said in a written statement that Hanks' candidacy links the Republican field to Trump, who lost to Joe Biden in Colorado last year by a wide margin.
“State Rep. Ron Hanks participated in the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6 and joked about lynching in the 2021 legislative session," she said. "He is a right wing extremist and insurrectionist. Hanks' entry into the crowded GOP primary is proof of Trump’s strong influence over the Colorado Republican Party.”
Hanks ran for the U.S. House in 2010 from a district in Northern California but lost to the Democratic incumbent.