As you’d expect, the Big Lie is now officially on the Colorado GOP primary ballot. And, just to be sure you don’t miss it, it will be displayed as prominently as possible, on the top line in races across the ticket.
It will get the top line in the race for U.S. senator, courtesy of Big Lie supporter Ron Hanks.
And the top line in the race for governor, courtesy of Big Lie supporter Greg Lopez.
And, yes — of course — the top line in the race for secretary of state, courtesy of the one and only, much-indicted, MyPillow guy protege, Tina Peters.
If that sounds like a disaster in the making for Republicans, who are already at their lowest point in Colorado in living memory, it is. But, the truth is, it could have been even worse.
There are two ways to make the ballot in Colorado. You can qualify by receiving at least 30% of the vote at the state assembly, where the party activist delegates tend to lean —- and often, more than lean — well to the right.
That’s how Hanks, Lopez and Peters did it Saturday in Colorado Springs. Hanks, who was famously on hand — if apparently not inside the Capitol — for the Jan. 6 insurrection, won 39% of the vote. Lopez, who promised to pardon Peters if/when she is convicted, won 34%. And Peters, who might eventually have to petition for prison furloughs in order to campaign at all, cruised to an easy victory with 61%.
Or you can collect enough signatures — 1,500 per congressional district for governor and senator and 1,000 per district for secretary of state — to make the ballot by petition, which is how Joe O’Dea, a businessman who has loaned his campaign $550,000, qualified for the Senate race. That’s how Heidi Ganahl, who also received 32% of the assembly vote, qualified for governor. And that’s how Pam Anderson, a county clerk who is an actual Big Lie Denier, qualified for secretary of state.
There was one more secretary of state candidate, a virtual unknown in Mike O’Donnell, who got 39% of the assembly vote, which seems to suggest that some delegates couldn’t actually bring themselves to vote for Peters, who might end up with more felony convictions than votes if she were to get the nomination. On the other hand, Jena Griswold, the incumbent secretary of state, was also the person whose name was most likely to be booed Saturday.
The Colorado Republican Party had officially asked Peters to withdraw from the race, considering the felony charges she faces. And, as if that weren’t enough, at the Big Lie campaign rally last Tuesday at the state Capitol, MyPillow guy Mike Lindell admitted to a reporter that he might have contributed as much as $800,000 to Peters’ defense fund. If true, that would probably break about 800,000 campaign finance laws.
The Big Lie was so much a part of the assembly that many delegates — not even trusting their own party —- insisted on paper ballots instead of using electronic voting. They finally gave up when Republican chair, Kristi Burton Brown, said that if they went with paper ballots, the votes wouldn’t all be counted until after midnight.
Even so, when the voting for governor was over, Danielle Neuschwanger — a real estate agent who is so into the Big Lie that she once accused Griswold of treason — said she would not yet concede, because, you know, of possible shenanigans that left her with only 27%.
So, where does this leave us? The biggest problem for Republicans is clearly Hanks, who is a first-term state representative and who, if somehow elected to the Senate, would make Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley look like Bernie Sanders. Sen. Michael Bennet is the easy favorite in the race, but we’re not yet sure what kind of year this will be. If the midterms in November turn out to be a Republican rout — as midterm elections tend to go when the current president’s approval ratings are in the dumpster, as Joe Biden’s are — Bennet could be vulnerable in what is now a 50-50 Senate.
A lot of people were lined up to take a shot at Bennet, and several of them, at various points in the race, were expected to make the ballot. Eli Bremer, the former Olympian who some saw as a reasonable possibility, came away with only 15% of the vote. Rich guy Gino Campana only got 11%. According to a Sun analysis, Campana spent at least $1,300 — and probably more — for each of his 401 votes, and he was being advised by erstwhile Trump adviser, Kellyanne Conway. And Ted Cruz’s favorite candidate, Deborah Flora, just missed the cutoff at 29%.
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Bennet is, of course, rooting for Hanks, who is a Republican nightmare. How often would Bennet remind everyone that two-thirds of GOP state House members voted to thank Hanks and the rest of the American, uh, patriots who showed up on Jan. 6 in support of Donald Trump and the Big Lie?
And you can’t even guess how often Democrats might quote veteran GOP operative Dick Wadhams, who told Bloomberg News before the assembly: “We nominate Ron Hanks, you can kiss this election goodbye. And this will be the third consecutive time that Sen. Bennet has been bailed out of what should have been competitive elections.”
Hanks, who has raised hardly any money to this point, will run against Joe O’Dea, who didn’t go the assembly route. O’Dea, who owns a construction company, already had enough signatures to successfully petition. But no one really knows what kind of candidate he would make — except one with extremely low name recognition in an extremely high-profile race. Let’s just say that national Republicans aren’t quite ready to hand anyone the party credit card.
In the governor’s race, Ganahl has long been considered the GOP favorite. She took a risk running at the assembly, hoping to knock out all the competition, since she had already qualified by petition. But she lost by two points to Greg Lopez, who finished third in the 2018 primary race for governor. He was already dealing with some old issues — he and his wife were both arrested in the ’90s in a domestic violence case. Both ended up pleading guilty to a harassment charge.
And then at the recent Douglas County assembly, Lopez went all-homophobe, telling the crowd that “I think it’s time we had a first lady, don’t you?” This was a cheap, bigoted shot at Polis’ same-sex marriage with Marlon Reis.
As pretty much every national analyst agrees, Polis will be heavily favored no matter who he runs against. As the at-large member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, Ganahl is the only Republican now serving in a statewide office. But to win the nomination, she’ll have to deal with the Big Lie. To this point, she has dealt with it by not dealing with it, dodging the question at every turn and at a level that brings back memories of Cory Gardner.
But when a significant majority of Republicans continue to insist that Joe Biden was not legitimately elected, can Ganahl keep refusing to answer the Big Lie question while running in a GOP primary? You can be sure that Lopez, not to mention every reporter in the state, will ask her at every opportunity.
And yet, while the Big Lie may have won at the assembly among GOP activists Saturday, we have to remember that in the actual counting two years ago — a counting of Democratic, Republican and Unaffiliated voters — Joe Biden clobbered Donald Trump by 13 points in Colorado.
And whatever Peters says, whatever Hanks says, whatever Lopez says, whatever the GOP assembly says, that’s still the plain, cold truth.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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