Heidi Ganahl is making the Colorado governor’s race more interesting than expected


From the perspective of many leading Republican elected officials and political consultants in Colorado, the governor’s race was supposed to go something like this: Heidi Ganahl, the Republican pick, very likely would lose to high-polling incumbent Democrat Jared Polis, but at least she’d give a strong showing and be a respectable presence at the top of the ticket.

These conservative politicians and consultants saw and still see opportunity to flip some key seats this year, but, more than a dozen have told The Denver Post, their main hope for Ganahl was that she’d do no harm.

But things haven’t gone to plan, and now the governor’s race is being defined in large part by what politicos on both sides of the aisle generally agree has been a disastrous campaign for Ganahl, a University of Colorado regent and the last Republican still standing in statewide office here.

After she picked election denier Danny Moore as her running mate, some fellow party members are even distancing themselves from her.

“It’s beyond disappointing that any candidate running for statewide office would open the door to allow this false rhetoric to continue,” said Pam Anderson, the Republican nominee for secretary of state.

Anderson’s statement was sent via text to The Post by her campaign manager Tiffany Coolidge, who months ago defected from the Ganahl campaign.

Choosing Moore was only the most recent chapter in Ganahl’s continuing move to establish herself as a far-right candidate — and thus to deviate from the very careful choreography the Colorado GOP is trying to follow in order to capitalize on what could be a red-wave year here and beyond.

Ganahl herself has said in the recent past that it’s important she be “so disciplined” in this race, which presents her with many challenges. If it weren’t enough that Colorado almost never elects Republicans to the governorship, Ganahl happens to be facing a popular Democrat with the power of incumbency and a track record of using his own millions to smash campaign finance records.

9News late last year obtained audio of Ganahl, then an early-stage candidate, telling voters in Durango, “So, you’re going to see me talk about things that the unaffiliated voter cares about, and you might be like, ‘Heidi, get feistier, talk about different, you know, things that we care about.’ Y’all, I care about everything that you care about. You hear me talking here, right now. But in the media and on my ads, I’m going to talk about crime and kids and the cost of living because that’s what’s going to win us the 7% of unaffiliated voters.”

The obvious subtext was that Ganahl would be downplaying far-right priorities — namely, the running effort to smear and reshape legitimate electoral systems — in order to have a shot at winning in a state where unaffiliated voters are a plurality and Trumpism is unpopular with the statewide electorate.

For a period, Ganahl’s efforts showed; on the campaign trail, she generally spoke forcefully and with focus about youth mental health, the need for more “tough-on-crime” policies and what she sees as government overreach in the regulation of business. When reporters asked her about matters of election security and democracy, she’d avoid direct answers and, on several occasions, chastised journalists for even asking.

“This is why the people of Colorado, or a lot of them, don’t trust the media,” she told The Denver Post in June, in response to a question about whether she’d vote for Anderson or her election-denying opponents in the primary. Anderson won that primary, as Ganahl won hers.

Leading up to the primary, Ganahl started to stray from the script she’d earlier said she’d stick to, declaring herself a “MAGA candidate.” Perhaps not too surprising, as candidates on both sides frequently move to attract the base in primary contests. What did surprise politicos the state over is that Ganahl kept it up even after she beat her further-right opponent, Greg Lopez, on June 28. The very next day she gave an interview to Steve Bannon, during which she touted that two top agents of Trumpism, Boris Epshteyn and Brad Parscale, were working on her campaign.


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