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The Colorado State Capitol Building on Jan 19, 2019. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Colorado’s legislative primaries are coming down to a battle of partisanship: Is one Republican more conservative than another? Which Democrat will hold the party line?

The ideological tests — which mirror the party purity tests in th U.S. Senate race and at the national level — could significantly influence the conversation at the Capitol next session, threatening to oust more pragmatic candidates and move the parties further to their poles. Many of the June 30 election contests are taking place in districts where the primary winner is expected to easily win in November.

The importance of the races is evident in the nearly $860,000 in outside money spent through Wednesday on supporting or opposing candidates in seven House and three Senate seats, according to state reports. Much of that is focused on messaging in Republican contests that emphasizes candidates’ conservative bona fides. 

The intra-party races include several open seats in Republican-dominated Weld County and Democratic districts in Denver and the San Luis Valley. Republican incumbents are facing challenges from more partisan challengers in Jefferson County and in the central mountains. 

Unaffiliated voters can participate in the primaries and could influence the outcome in several contests, but it remains to be seen if they’ll provide a moderating touch in either party. Ballots started to get mailed to voters this week.

The differences between the candidates are often subtle, leading many of the campaigns to focus on hot-button cultural issues. “You do try to distinguish yourself somehow, someway when on 95% of the issues both candidates are on the same page,” said Ryan Winger, director of data analysis and research for Magellan Strategies, a Republican polling and campaign firm.

MORE: Get a guide to the candidates competing in top 2020 legislative primary races below.

Republican battlegrounds feature plenty of outside money

Winger lives in Weld County, where three open House seats and an open Senate seat are being hotly contested. “Whoever wins these primaries is very likely going to win in November,” he said, noting that Weld County is a GOP stronghold.

Outside groups play an outsized role in legislative contests because they can spend unlimited money and accept unlimited donations, unlike lawmakers, who may accept a maximum of $400 from individuals.

All the races feature involvement by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a controversial organization that opposes all gun regulations and has been active in Republican politics for nearly two decades. Make Liberty Win, a recently created super PAC that has yet to reveal donors, is supporting two of the same candidates.

On the other side are several better-funded conservative groups, some of which also don’t reveal their donors: 

  • Coloradans for Constitutional Values is primarily funded by media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s daughter-in-law, Kathryn Murdoch, via the federal super PAC Unite America
  • Better Jobs Coalition, which advocates for job creation and limited government, and is funded by several nonprofits that don’t disclose their donors
  • Ready Colorado Action Fund, which focuses on education, and is funded by the nonprofit Ready Colorado, which also doesn’t disclose its donors
  • Assuring Quality Health Care Action, a super PAC funded by members of COPIC, the state’s medical malpractice insurer

So far, RMGO reported spending about $10,000 on mailers supporting four Weld County candidates, according to state campaign finance filings through Wednesday. The organization is backing Pat Miller, an Erie resident who served in the state House in the early 1990s, in House District 63; Grady Nouis, a utility service worker, in House District 48; state Sen. Vicki Marble, of Fort Collins in House District 49; and Rupert Parchment, a Windsor trucking business owner, in Senate District 23.

And Make Liberty Win spent nearly $32,000 on mailers supporting Marble and Nouis.

But more money is flowing to their opponents. 

Coloradans for Constitutional Values is spending more than $100,000 supporting former Erie Trustee Dan Woog and opposing Miller. It’s spending more than $92,000 supporting Eaton education consultant Tonya Van Beber and opposing Nouis.

Ready Colorado is spending $93,000 supporting Van Beber and nearly $76,000 to support Michael Lynch, a Wellington businessman, competing against Marble. The group spent another $32,000 supporting Woog.

Assuring Quality Health Care Access spent $60,000 on canvassing to support Woog, while Better Jobs reported spending about $11,500 on mailers supporting him.

Longtime Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer is running for the Senate against Parchment in a district that includes Broomfield and parts of Larimer County. A new super PAC called Weld Strong, funded by several business people including Colorado Rockies owner Charlie Monfort, is backing her bid with more than $9,000 on digital ads and mailers.

Another nearly $190,000 in big money is aimed at House District 22 in southern Jefferson County, where incumbent Rep. Colin Larson faces former Rep. Justin Everett, who left the seat in 2018 for an unsuccessful bid for state treasurer. 

Assuring Quality Health Care Access spent nearly $72,000 supporting Larson, while Coloradans for Conservative Values spent more than $50,000 opposing Everett. Better Jobs spent nearly $36,000 on Larson’s race, with other groups spending less.

Everett is a longtime ally of RMGO, as well as House Minority Leader Patrick Neville. Values First Colorado, the House super PAC, paid Everett $5,000 for consulting in December and January.

Larson won a bitter primary in 2018, when outside groups spent nearly $119,000 mostly in his support. 

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The separation on issues among candidates is subtle in primaries

On the issues, Larson’s differences with Everett are more pronounced than the contrasts between the Weld County candidates. For instance, Larson voted for legislation to ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth that Everett has supported in the past. 

As a House Education Committee member, Larson also voted for funding full-day kindergarten, something several GOP House members opposed in 2019. He was among the dozen most bipartisan Republicans in The Colorado Sun’s analysis of votes from last year’s session.

But in Weld County, the candidates typically have similar policy positions.

Calida Troxell, treasurer for the Weld County Republican Party, isn’t thrilled by RMGO’s involvement. She said the candidates they oppose are “not necessarily moderate but maybe a little bit more moderate than the scorched-earth candidates we’ve been getting. Eventually, the scorched-earth candidates are going to lose.”

Most of the GOP candidates espouse their support for gun rights and the oil and gas industry, and often their opposition to Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. “We’ve decided that we’re all pro-life, we’ve decided that we’re for the Second Amendment,” Troxell said.

For RMGO Executive Director Dudley Brown, that’s not always good enough. He said he wants candidates who will vote with RMGO no matter what. “Weld County is a pretty solid base for the gun community,” Brown said. “If you don’t get conservatives out of those districts, you aren’t going to get them anywhere.”

But Troxell said a changing electorate isn’t receptive to such “no-compromise” tactics. “I think it’s changing and half the party is waking up to it’s changing,” she said. “The other half is stuck in, ‘We will always win and can be as big a jerk as we want.’”

Alice Madden, a former Democratic House majority leader, suggested unaffiliated voters could have a moderating impact in GOP primaries. This is the second election cycle voters not aligned with any party – the largest voting block in the state – may choose to vote in either Democratic or Republican primaries.

 “If you’re in Weld County you have interesting Republican primaries you can vote in,” Madden said. “Independents in Weld County could help elect a more reasonable Republican candidate.”

Democrats see opportunities but also face internal battles

But if the more conservative candidates move forward, Democrats see potential openings.

If Everett wins in the House District 22, where 42% of voters are unaffiliated, some see potential for a Democratic victory.

“It’s the last hold out in Jefferson County,” Winger said. “If Colin Larson wins, it’s that much safer. He fits the district a little bit better and doesn’t have that reputation of being an arch-conservative legislator.”

Democrats also are eyeing the Senate District 23 contest, in part because it includes less conservative Broomfield and the I-25 corridor in the southern part of Weld County. Two Democrats are vying for the nomination in that district, and Weld County Democratic Chairman Jerad Sutton sees opportunity if Kirkmeyer should lose.

“It’s been four years, and that’s where we are seeing a lot of the growth,” Sutton said.

In Senate District 8, Republicans are battling in a primary race that features Sen. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale businessman who sits on the Joint Budget Committee. He faces Debra Irvine, a Breckenridge artist and longtime party activist. 

Winger said the district is a potential pick up for Democrats if Rankin loses. The district includes mountain towns from Steamboat Springs south to Carbondale.

Two Democrats, both of whom lost in the 2018 3rd Congressional District primary, are vying to run in the state Senate district, with former Eagle County commissioner Arn Menconi positioning himself as the progressive compared with Glenwood Springs attorney Karl Hanlon, who emphasizes his experience in water law and working for city government.

But before Democrats look to November, they face their own contentious party primaries.

Three candidates in Denver’s House District 6 have spent nearly $200,000, making it the most expensive contest to date. Rep. Steven Woodrow, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year, faces challengers Daniel Himelspach and Steven Paletz. All three are attorneys: Woodrow specializes in consumer law; Himelspach in mediation; and Paletz in real estate and development.

All three candidates are spending some of their own money: Himelspach at nearly $56,000; Paletz at more than $25,000; and Woodrow at about $19,000. Ten fellow lawmakers and a host of traditional Democratic groups are endorsing Woodrow, though the other two men also have significant community support. Paletz has booked $50,000 worth of cable TV ads this month.

Among the groups endorsing Woodrow are several unions and Cobalt, the abortion-rights advocacy group. With the U.S. Supreme Court considering cases that would restrict access to abortion, Democratic majorities at the state level will be important, said Laura Chapin, a communications consultant for the group.

“We need folks in the legislature who are going to be not just voting the right way, but outspoken and assertive on these issues,” she said.

In another contest, Cobalt endorsed Matthew Martinez, a Marine veteran and Monte Vista city councilman who is challenging incumbent state Rep. Don Valdez. The two are facing off in House District 62 in the San Luis Valley. Valdez, who is an outlier in the party, angered some when he voted against a bill on comprehensive sexual health education last year.

Meanwhile, nearly $60,000 is being spent so far by two Democrats in Senate District 31, which includes parts of Arapahoe and Denver counties. Sen. Chris Hansen, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year after serving in the House, faces Maria Orms, an engineer and military veteran.

Both candidates emphasize their progressive environmental credentials. Yet Hansen is endorsed by Cobalt and by gun safety groups and other lawmakers. 

All three seats are considered safe for Democrats, so the primary is the real contest. 

The same is true in the open race for Aurora’s House District 40. University of Colorado Denver Professor John Ronquillo boasts backing from 18 lawmakers as well as Cobalt and several unions. He faces mortgage broker Naquetta Ricks.

In Littleton’s House District 38, two Democrats have spent nearly $46,000 in the quest to take on GOP Rep. Richard Champion, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year. 

Disabled veteran David Oritz is endorsed by Cobalt, unions, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jason Crow and others in his contest against marketing executive Candace Ferguson. One legislative rating group says the district tilts Democratic, making it a potential pickup for the party.

Sheena Kadi, a Democratic campaign veteran who is now working on independent election spending for Service Employees International Union, said even in seats considered safe, the party will have its work cut out for it.

“Complacency is the most dangerous thing. That can happen to Democrats too,” she said. “Over the last two sessions it has become clear that a two-seat majority in the Senate is not enough to pass things. Democrats definitely want to make sure that they are growing that majority this session.”

A guide to the legislative primary races in 2020

Here’s a look at the candidates in some of Colorado’s top primary contests on June 30. The Colorado Sun asked candidates about why they’re running and their top issues. Contest ratings are from CNalysis, a national site that analyzes legislative and other races.

Democratic primaries

Senate District 8

Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties

Rating: Safe Republican

Karl Hanlon, 53, attorney, Glenwood Springs

Karl Hanlon

Raised through May 27: $16,090

Top issue: Climate change, health care, housing and public lands are Hanlon’s top issues. But, he said, “Helping our rural communities come back from the impacts of the coronavirus, both social and economic, is critical. My near-term focus in the legislature will be on programs that help diversify and reimagine how the economy works.”

Arn Menconi, 61, nonprofit founder, Carbondale

Raised through May 27: $9,136

Top issue: The candidate didn’t respond to questions.

What’s at stake in the race? Although this is considered a safe Republican seat by some analysts, if incumbent Sen. Bob Rankin loses the GOP primary, it could be a pick-up chance for Democrats. Menconi positions himself as the more progressive of the two candidates.

Senate District 31

Central and southeast Denver, part of Arapahoe county

Rating: Safe Democratic

Sen. Chris Hansen, 44, nonprofit director, Denver

State Sen. Chris Hansen

Raised through May 27: $79,084

Top issue: Climate change is Hansen’s top issue; he holds a Ph.D. in economic geography from Oxford. “It is imperative that we not only leave a better planet for our children, but also use this opportunity to lift up marginalized communities and transition into a more resilient, just, carbon-free economy.” Working on climate change legislation allows him to get involved with “a diverse stakeholder group including labor, utilities, transit companies, various government departments and community groups.”

Maria Orms, 52, senior manager, Denver

Maria Orms

Raised through May 27: $28,475, including $13,726 of her own money

Top issue: Orms says she’s running “to change the inequities and crises in climate change, affordable housing, economic opportunities, and education funding that are happening, that no one solves.” She says oil and gas is her top issue. “Fracking is polluting our air, poisoning our families, and the water used in the process is forever unusable. I’m fighting fellow Democrats and the oil and gas industry on an issue that is pushing us towards an existential crisis.”

What’s at stake in the race? The winner of the primary is virtually certain to win the general election. Both candidates offer similar visions, though Orms says she’s more committed to the environment and single-payer health care, while Hansen emphasizes his experience in the legislature, including serving on the Joint Budget Committee when he was in the House.

House District 6

East central Denver

Rating: Safe Democratic

Dan Himelspach, 71, attorney/mediator, Denver

Dan Himelspach

Raised through May 27: $55,304, including $27,979 of his own money; he’s also loaned his campaign $30,000

Top issue: Himelspach, whose practice focuses on dispute resolution, said the most important issue is the budget shortfall “because of the Trump recession. The cuts that our current laws require will be massive and devastating to young families, teachers, and public service professionals alike.” He said he would continue the property tax exemption for seniors and cut funding for private prisons, and emphasizes his 40 years living in and being involved in the district.

Steven Paletz, 32, lawyer, Denver

Steven Paletz

Raised through May 27: $62,727, including $5,349 of his own money; he’s also loaned his campaign $20,000

Top issue: Mental health is his top issue: “Colorado has seen the highest increase in teen suicide in the country, suicide is the leading cause of death for Coloradans age 10-24 and mental health challenges are the leading cause of homelessness. I’ll advocate for laws requiring mental health parity, treating mental health care the same as physical health care.” Paletz said he wants “to ensure that every Coloradoan has the same opportunity to live their American dream.”

Rep. Steven Woodrow, 39, lawyer, Denver

Steven Woodrow

Raised through May 27: $96,068, including $19,079 of his own money

Top issue: Woodrow, appointed earlier this year, says his top goal is to “ensure that we are adequately responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic collapse. The virus has brought our drastic need for affordable housing to the forefront.” He’s running to fight “for racial, social, environmental and economic justice. I have spent my career litigating complex cases against some of the nation’s most powerful interests. I’ve also spent years organizing our neighbors to get good people elected.”

What’s at stake in the race? This three-way contest features the most candidate spending in any race thus far, with each candidate spending significant amounts of their own cash. Candidates are trying to differentiate themselves from each other in this safe Democratic seat, although Woodrow is endorsed by many of his fellow lawmakers.

House District 38

Littleton and Arapahoe County

Rating: Tilt Democratic

Candace Ferguson, 44, marketing & branding small business owner, Littleton

Candice Ferguson

Raised through May 27: $12,596

Top issue: Reforming TABOR is Ferguson’s top priority “so we can deal with the current budget crisis and many other areas that have been struggling for too long. This change is needed so we can increase funding for schools and pay for teachers. We need to make sure mental health is actually a part of health care with parity. And we need to protect our environment in the face of climate change.”

David Ortiz, 38, nonprofit management and lobbyist, Littleton

David Ortiz

Raised through May 27: $56,111

Top issue: Public education is Ortiz’s top priority: “Colorado ranks lowest when it comes to funding public education. Colorado is having difficulties retaining teachers, especially given the extreme rise in cost of living and housing here in Colorado.” He is paralyzed as a result of a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, where he served in the Army. “We need leaders that know how to tenaciously fight and empower a community so together we emerge stronger and more united.”

What’s at stake in the race? The winner will take on GOP Rep. Richard Champion, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year. Because of changing demographics, this is a seat Democrats could pick up in November.

House District 40

Aurora and Arapahoe County

Rating: Safe Democratic

Naquetta Ricks, 53, small business owner/mortgage broker, Aurora

Raised through May 27: $10,167; she’s loaned her campaign $1,000

Top issue: The state budget shortfall is Ricks’ biggest concern. “It impacts our ability to combat COVID 19, to maintain the level of funding needed for education, and to provide services in many areas. ” She said she’s running “to represent more members at the table of American prosperity.  As an immigrant, I know what it takes to become a success. But that opportunity is slipping away for many.”

John Ronquillo, 39, assistant professor University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs, Aurora

John C. Ronquillo

Raised through May 27: $19,635

Top issue: Fiscal responsibility is Ronquillo’s focus. He supports efforts “to dismantle TABOR and repeal the Gallagher Amendment. I’m aware that there are efforts afoot to do that, and I am a strong proponent of Initiative #271 to help Coloradans earning less than $250k a year see some tax relief, to see more money to go toward our public schools and educators, and to address the current imbalance of our tax code.”

What’s at stake in the race? Either of these Democratic candidates is likely to win the general election in this safe seat, and both are emphasizing fiscal concerns. Traditional Democratic groups are lining up behind Ronquillo, however.

House District 62

Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Huerfano, Mineral, Pueblo, Rio Grande and Saguache counties

Rating: Safe Democratic

Rep. Donald Valdez, 42, rancher, La Jara

Donald Valdez

Raised through May 27: $2,323

Top issue: Valdez said he’s running for reelection to be a voice for Southern Colorado, including on water issues. But his top issue is education: “We need to continue to fund education so that teachers have the resources they need … When our children get an education that means that we are growing our own, to grow new leaders, new small businesses owners and be entrepreneurs in our rural communities.”

Matthew Martinez, 33, director of the prison college program at Adams State University, Monte Vista

Matthew Martinez

Raised through May 27: $6,461

Top issue: The urban-rural divide is a major issue for Martinez, who said he’s running to protect the area’s water from urban development and more. “While Denver has been booming economically, the southern part of the state has some of the poorest counties and lack of help. Rural community health centers are always fighting for funding… Veterans mental health services in the rural parts of the state are severely lacking.” 

What’s at stake in the race? Valdez is facing opposition from within his party, as Martinez is endorsed by Cobalt, an abortion rights group, as well as the AFL-CIO. The seat is safely Democratic, but Martinez likely is more progressive than the incumbent.

Republican primaries

Senate District 8

Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties

Rating: Safe Republican

Debra Irvine, 61, self-employed artist, Breckenridge

Debra Irvine

Raised through May 27: $12,512; she’s loaned her campaign $2,000

Top issue: Irvine cites several issues that concern her: “The stay-at-home, safer-at-home demands of this pandemic have been especially difficult to those suffering from depression, anxiety, abuse, despair.  Having been a suicide hotline volunteer, this is a concern of mine. Financial stress and hardship must be addressed.  We can do that by keeping state overspending in check and our Taxpayer Bill of Rights intact as it was designed for that purpose.”

Sen. Bob Rankin, 77, retired engineer/aerospace executive, Carbondale

Bob Rankin

Raised through May 27: $53,025

Top issue: Asked about his top issue, Rankin said, “Unfortunately I have to list No. 1 as working to prevent the growth of socialism in Colorado. I think we’ve swung too far in the direction of the majority party and we need to balance that.” Education and the cost of healthcare are his top priorities. “There are things I feel very passionate about and want to continue to work on.”

What’s at stake in the race? Rankin is being challenged by party activist Irvine, who paints herself as more conservative than the Joint Budget Committee member. If Irvine were to win, Democrats see potential to win the seat that includes mountain communities such as Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.

Senate District 23

Broomfield and parts of Weld and Larimer counties

Rating: Safe Republican

Barbara Kirkmeyer, 61, Weld County commissioner, Brighton

Barbara Kirkmeyer

Raised through May 27: $61,157

Top issue: Kirkmeyer says she’s running “to hold (Democratic Gov.) Jared Polis accountable and be a check and balance on his overreaching, overarching liberal agenda.” She says she’ll work to “promote economic freedom, liberty and limited government” including repealing a “red flag” gun law and oil and gas regulations passed in 2019. “Weld County is the only debt-free county in the state. Leaving future generations debt free is perhaps my proudest accomplishment.”

Rupert Parchment, 50, business owner, Windsor

Rupert Parchment

Raised through May 27: $15,548

Top issue: Parchment says he’s running to protect his three children, noting that in the 2020 elections “Our choice is constitutional freedom or government control in the form of tyranny.” He says jobs and rebuilding the economy are the most important issues after the COVID-19 pandemic. He wants to “cut down the size of government, remove burdensome regulations that hinder economic growth, work to reduce or remove income taxes for families” and more.

What’s at stake in the race? Weld County Commissioner Kirkmeyer is well-known in the district, finishing her third consecutive term and having served eight years in the 1990s and early 2000s. But Parchment won the district assembly and has the endorsement of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, former county commissioner Sean Conway and others. If the relatively unknown Parchment wins, Democrats see an opening to take over a Senate seat in a district along the growing Interstate 25 corridor.

House District 22

South Jefferson County

Rating: Leans Republican

Rep. Colin Larson, 33, small business owner, Littleton

Colin Larson

Raised through May 27: $13,817

Top issue: Coronavirus recovery is Larson’s top issue. “Getting the economy and our schools reopened in a safe manner, but as quickly as possible. It’s incredibly important to have somebody who’s actually run a small business, with employees, a brick (and) mortar experience.” He also noted his focus on education and mental health care reform in his first two years, with 10 of his bills passing.

Justin Everett, 48, small business owner, Littleton

Justin Everett

Raised through May 27: $16,027

Top issue: Everett said he’s running again because “we need strong conservative, principled leaders who are willing to make the tough decisions and protect our constitutional rights.” His top issue is “the overgrowth and expansion of government.  It has gotten too big and out of control.I will continue running legislation to shrink the size and scope, while recruiting like-minded people to join the fight.”

What’s at stake in the race? Larson is more focused on education than on conservative social issues, while Everett has long been aligned with the most conservative faction of the Republican Party. Gay rights is one area the two diverge on, with Everett opposing bills to expand LGBTQ rights when held the seat in the past and Larson mostly supporting them. Some say if Everett wins, Jefferson County’s changing electorate could elect a Democrat to the seat.

House District 48

Weld County

Rating: Safe Republican

Grady Nouis, 36, horizontal drilling technician, Milliken

Grady Nouis

Raised through May 27: $12,832

Top issue: Nouis said he’s running because “I don’t trust anybody else to defend the freedoms and liberties granted by the Constitution more than I will. To ensure limited government, free markets and free people, I need to be in office.” Taxes are his big issue: “Levels of taxation are a huge concern to me. I cannot sit idle and watch Colorado continue to increase taxes and add endless amounts of fees.”

Tonya Van Beber, education consultant, Eaton

Raised through May 27: $20,855; she’s loaned her campaign $15,900

Top issue: didn’t respond

What’s at stake in the race? Nouis is the conservative favorite in this contest, while Van Beber is endorsed by former state Sen. Tom Norton and others, including some super PACs spending to promote her.

House District 49

Larimer and Weld counties

Rating: Safe Republican

Michael Lynch, 51, business owner/belt-buckle maker, Wellington

Mike Lynch

Raised through May 27: $12,074; he’s loaned his campaign $5,000

Top issue: Lynch is concerned about government overreach: “The sole mission of the government should be to keep us safe and provide infrastructure for commerce in support of capitalism. The most pressing issues for me are to ensure we are able to maintain infrastructure (transportation) and to reduce the burdens the state is putting on businesses through regulation and taxation.” He said he’s running because “we need to be a government led by common citizens and not professional politicians.”

Sen. Vicki Marble, state senator, Fort Collins

Vicki Marble

Raised through May 27: $2,279; she’s loaned her campaign $8,120

Top issue: Did not respond to questions

What’s at stake in the race? This safe Republican seat pits a businessman versus a two-term senator who is voted “no” on the floor more often than any other lawmakers in 2019. Sen. Marble is backed by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, while Lynch is supported by more moderate Republican political action committees.

House District 63

Weld County

Rating: Safe Republican

Pat Miller, 73, author and former state representative, Erie

Patricia Miller

Raised through May 27: $16,224

Top issue: Miller cited several conservative values among her top issues: “The family unit is under attack, whether that attack is from liberal education demands or health care for our children. How can a government employee know more about children than the parents of those children?” She said she’s running because “Colorado has become increasingly liberal.”

Corey Seulean, 50, pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church, Firestone

Corey Seulean

Raised through May 27: $16,291

Top issue: Abortion is the top issue for Seulean, who is running as a write-in candidate. “Abortion is an abomination to God and is an assault on human life. We must do all we can to protect the children God has entrusted to our care.” He said he decided to run after the 2019 legislative session passed a variety of Democratic measures and “seeing the direction our state is headed, I felt called to do something more for my state.”

Dan Woog, 42, real estate firm owner and former Erie trustee, Erie

Dan Woog

Raised through May 27: $22,157; he’s loaned his campaign $8,000

Top issue: Protecting the oil and gas industry and agriculture are top issues, combined with Woog’s concern about the violation of constitutional rights. “Under (Democratic Gov. Jared) Polis’ oversight, we are seeing so much more regulation and it has crippled businesses throughout our state. It is time to let the free market take over again to ensure our state remains one of the most productive in the country.” 

What’s at stake in the race? The three candidates are basically vying to prove who is most conservative in this safe Republican seat now held by term-limited Rep. Lori Saine. Rocky Mountain Gun Owners is backing Miller, while several business groups are supporting Woog.

CORRECTION: This story was updated June 16, 2020, at 4 p.m. to correct Dan Woog’s status with the Town of Erie. He is a former Erie trustee.

Sandra Fish

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @fishnette