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Republican candidate for governor Greg Lopez waves during the GOP assembly at the Broadmoor World Arena on Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Colorado Springs. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

COLORADO SPRINGS — Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Lopez on Saturday secured the top line on the June 28 primary ballot after firmly aligning himself with the wing of the GOP that baselessly believes the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Lopez, a former mayor of Parker, secured about 34% of the delegate vote at the Republican state assembly in Colorado Springs.

In a speech at the Broadmoor World Arena before the vote was taken, he vowed to pardon embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who was indicted in a breach of her county’s election system, if she is convicted and he is elected.

“We the people want fair elections,” he said. “It is time we clear up our voter rolls and stop the ballot harvesting.”

University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl also made the primary ballot, securing about 32% of the delegate vote. She also collected enough petition signatures to qualify.

Danielle Neuschwanger, a first-time candidate from Elbert County, came in third place and narrowly missed qualifying for the ballot. She did not reach the 30% delegate support threshold needed to make the primary. Afterward Neuschwanger alleged the delegate vote was fraudulent and said she plans to contest the results, though it’s not clear how she could do that.

Ganahl only needed the support of 10% of the roughly 3,700 delegates at the state assembly because she also collected signatures to make the ballot.

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Whoever wins the primary will face an uphill battle in November against Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, who spent more than $23 million of his own cash to win his first term in 2018. Polis has been heralded recently by several conservative publications, and polls show voters approve of how he’s led the state.

Rachel Kloefkorn, a Republican voter from Adams County, said she was backing Lopez because she felt he was the best option among the top three Republican gubernatorial candidates.

“He’s still establishment, which sucks,” she said.

Kloefkorn said she doesn’t like Ganahl because she represents the status quo.

“Heidi is just a cheerleader,” she said. “We don’t need a cheerleader.”

Ganahl has long been the presumptive GOP gubernatorial nominee in Colorado. She said before the vote was taken that she was “very confident” she would win top line on the ballot and potentially even keep other challengers from qualifying for the primary.

Her second-place finish still makes her a leading contender to win the GOP nomination, which would make her the first woman to ever be the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Colorado.

Republican candidate for governor Heidi Ganahl speaks during the GOP assembly at the Broadmoor World Arena on Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Colorado Springs. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

“We the people, we’re frustrated, we’re angry,” she said in her speech at the state assembly. “Let’s tell Jared Polis a message he can’t buy or cancel: you’re fired.”

Lopez ran for governor in 2018, but lost in the primary to then-Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

“We’re going to take back our Colorado way of life,” Lopez said in his assembly speech.

Lopez has had several run-ins with law enforcement, all of which have been previously documented and that Lopez has openly talked about. Most recently, in October 2020, Lopez settled a lawsuit filed by federal prosecutors alleging that after he left the Small Business Administration, where he was the Colorado district director from 2008 to 2014, Lopez violated federal law by attempting to improperly influence actions of the agency.

Prosecutors alleged Lopez “attempted to influence the SBA’s handling of its loan guarantee” to Morreale Hotels, which was owned by Lopez’s friend.

“Mr. Lopez asked an SBA officer for a ‘favor’ in obtaining SBA approval of a debt restructuring plan that would have benefited Morreale Hotels and its owner,” federal prosecutors said in a news release. “A few months later, Mr. Lopez also asked another SBA administrator to help Morreale Hotels. Mr. Lopez’s attempts to influence the SBA were unsuccessful, and the SBA ultimately recovered the full amount of its loan guarantee.”

Lopez paid $15,000 to settle the case and “acknowledged that the United States could prove the facts alleged in the civil action by a preponderance of the evidence,” according to a news release from the Trump administration’s Justice Department.

Lopez said he wasn’t aware at the time that he did something wrong. But Colorado’s Trump-appointed U.S. attorney at the time, Jason Dunn, framed the case differently.

“Mr. Lopez’s attempts to exert improper influence over a federal agency on behalf of his friend were serious violations of the rules for former federal officials,” he said in a written statement. “The American people deserve to have confidence that the federal government runs its programs without favoritism towards former officials.”

Lopez came under fire recently for remarks he made at the Douglas County GOP assembly. “I think it’s time we had a First Lady, don’t you?” Lopez said, referring to Polis’ husband, Marlon Reis.

Connie Goodwin, a delegate from Fremont County, said Lopez can appeal to people across the socioeconomic spectrum. Another draw, she said, was that Lopez was the only candidate who visited all 64 counties.

GOP state assembly at the World Arena on Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Colorado Springs. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Lack of rural representation is “one of the things that we are facing big time,” said Tom Goodwin, Connie’s husband and also a delegate. “Every county is important to him. That, to me, is major.”

Nancy Kolashinski, an El Paso delegate, decided to vote for Heidi Ganahl after hearing her speak Saturday. She said her comments about eliminating Colorado’s income tax and rescinding executive orders passed by Polis — “all of them” — were among the reasons for backing Ganahl.

John Kellner, the 18th Judicial District attorney, secured top line on Saturday in the Republican primary for attorney general. He is the only candidate on the Republican primary ballot for attorney general, making him the de facto nominee.

Peters was indicted on misdemeanor and felony charges in a breach of her county’s election system.  She won top line on the Republican secretary of state primary ballot. She will face Mike O’Donnell, a Yuma County resident, who also was placed on the ballot by assembly delegates. Also on the primary ballot is Pam Anderson, a former Jefferson County Clerk, who gathered petition signatures.

Dan Maloit, of Erie, is the sole nominee for the open Colorado Board of Education at-large seat. He’ll face Democrat Kathy Plomer, of Broomfield.

Former state Rep. Lang Sias is slated to be the GOP nominee for state treasurer.

The Colorado GOP also adopted a party platform on Saturday. One of the items supported the end of mail-in ballots except for military and overseas voters, as well as voters who are physically unable to vote in person.

UPDATE: This story was updated at 5:17 p.m. on Monday, April, 11, 2022, to reflect that 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner is the only Republican candidate for attorney general on the June 28 primary ballot.

Sandra Fish

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @fishnette

Jesse Paul

The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is...

Shannon Najmabadi

Shannon Najmabadi has covered rural affairs and the rural economy for The Colorado Sun since 2021. She was previously a reporter at The Texas Tribune. Email: Twitter: