DENVER — The 2022 primary is a week away with some major races on the ballot for everything from U.S. Senate to Congress to state seats.
One of the biggest decisions voters will be deciding this year is the governor’s race. Governor Jared Polis is up for reelection and is not facing a primary challenger.
Meanwhile, there are two Republicans who are squaring off in the June 28 primary for a chance to take on Gov. Polis in the general election. Heidi Ganahl and Greg Lopez are both criticizing the governor over his response to the COVID pandemic, inflation crime, his use of executive orders and more.
Denver7 sat down with both candidates to get a better idea of their platforms and what they would do differently if elected.
Who is Heidi Ganahl?
Ganahl is a mother of four and is married to Jason Ganahl. Her first husband died in a plane crash when she was 27. The couple had been married for two years.
Before his death, the couple had explored the idea of starting a doggie daycare. Several years later, Ganahl created Camp Bow Wow, which has blossomed into a nationwide multimillion-dollar business.
The entrepreneur is the only republican to currently hold statewide office as a member of the CU Board of Regents. She has pushed for education reform and supports school choice and the expansion of charter schools in the state.
She is also the daughter of a police officer and says she will be a law and order governor who is focused on making neighborhoods safe.
Ganahl has some experience in politics; along with running for the CU regent seat, she chaired the effort No on Prop. CC in 2019. The ballot initiative, which voters rejected, would have ended the state TABOR tax refund.
If elected, Ganahl says her first priority will be to undo many of the things Governor Polis has done.
“What I hear around the state is folks are really upset and frustrated about government overreach, whether it's taxes, fees, regulations, you know, moving industries out of Colorado, like the energy industry, we need to make sure that we trust the people of Colorado to make good decisions for themselves and their businesses, their families, their kids,” she said.
She also wants to shrink the state government by taking a critical look at different state-run boards, agencies and commissions.
Who is Greg Lopez?
Lopez is a father of two, a disabled veteran and a small business owner who lives in Elizabeth. At age 27, he was elected as the mayor of Parker.
Lopez says he came from humble beginnings with his mom and dad working in the fields. His father had a sixth-grade education, his mother had a 10th-grade education and so he says he can relate more to the families who are struggling to pay their bills.
He is also the former Colorado office director of the Small Business Administration and a former board member of the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Lopez owns a restaurant and bar in Aurora.
In 2018, he ran for governor but was beat for the Republican nomination by Walker Stapleton.
Lopez has had a few run-ins with the law: in 1993 there was a domestic violence complaint after Lopez and his wife got into a physical altercation. Both eventually pleaded guilty to harassment, according to a 1994 Denver Post article. The couple went to marriage counseling and is still together. In 2003 Lopez was arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence.
Then in 2020, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against him, accusing him of trying to improperly influence his former SBA colleagues in violation of federal law.
According to the DOJ, Lopez attempted to influence the SBA’s handling of its loan guarantee by communicating with SBA employees on behalf of his friend, who owns Morreale Hotels. Lopez settled the case for $15,000.
On his website, he has dedicated an entire section to explain both the 1993 altercation with his wife and the DOJ lawsuit.
On political funding
Of the two candidates, Ganahl has the larger political funding by far. As of mid-June, she had $145,000 cash on hand compared to Lopez’s $17,000.
Both candidates, however, are being dwarfed in funding by Polis, who reported having $4,767,000 cash on hand in mid-June.
Ganahl tells Denver7 she knows funding plays a big role in elections and she has surrounded herself with a team that can fundraise enough money to mount a successful campaign against Polis.
Lopez maintains that elections shouldn’t only be for the rich. He says he should be a more viable candidate because he knows what it’s like to live on a $30,000 income like many voters.
He considers his more of a word-of-mouth campaign and insists that it’s working since he was able to garner the top line on the ballot from the republican state assembly.
On political ads
Ganahl has joined with other republican groups that have lambasted Democratic-backed groups for running expensive ad campaigns that she says are meant to help Greg Lopez win the primary.
“It isn't helpful that the Democrats are trying to pick their opponent right now. They've put in over $3 million into our governor's race to help my opponent and I just don't think that's right,” Ganahl said. “I hope that Jared Polis will denounce this and make sure that we are allowed to pick fairly, who gets to run against him.”
Lopez, however, disagrees with the republican party’s interpretation of the ads and questions whether the party would be as concerned about them if they were about Ganahl.
“If I had a half a million dollars in my bank account, my campaign account, and I was out raising money of my opponent, would they be saying the same thing? I don't think so. You know, I truly believe that Democrats recognize that I'm the only candidate that can take votes away from the Governor,” he said. “I can't control what the ads are. Would I tell them to take them down? This is politics. Are you serious? We expect this type of attack.”
When asked by Denver7 whether he’s accusing the republican party of picking sides before the primary Lopez responded, “If you dig deep, you know, people human nature decides who they select. Are they doing it openly? I don't know. It really doesn't matter to me. Because I'm going to get elected by the people, not the Republican Party.”
While Ganahl acknowledges that there are certain instances where she would be okay with abortion, Lopez has taken a zero-tolerance stance on the issue
“All lives matter, even the unborn, you know, I want to see Colorado, become the state where we show love, compassion and empathy for the women that find themselves in very difficult situations,” Lopez said. “I don't think anybody purposely wants to terminate a life and I don't want Colorado to become that.”
He says his sister got pregnant at 15 and his father tried to convince her to get an abortion but she decided to give birth. He wants to see more support for pregnancy centers and adoption, e
Lopez would not want to see exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother, saying the first two are already illegal.
When it comes to the life of the mother, though, he says it’s a medical decision and that it wouldn’t be an abortion to save the life of the mother, it would be protecting a life.
“It’s not an abortion. Everybody wants to say it's an abortion, the family decides, and the doctor decides from a medical standpoint, which is a life that we can preserve, is not the life that we're going to terminate. There's a difference on that, and words are important. And so when they preserve a life, and they have to sacrifice a life, I think that's a medical decision that we should all respect.
Ganahl says she would support abortions in the cases of rape, incest and for the health of the mother and fetus. She and Lopez vehemently oppose the Reproductive Health Equity Act that was signed into law this year codifying a person’s right to seek an abortion in the state and says she would work to roll it back.
When asked what she meant by the health of the fetus Ganahl said, “I'd focus on a decision between the mom and the doctor on that issue. But if a fetus passes away, and you expect the mom to carry it full term, then that might be an instance where, you know, you could take action sooner.”
On climate change
One big area where Ganahl and Lopez disagree is on climate change. While Ganahl readily admits that man has played a role in climate change, Lopez still doesn’t believe that the science unequivocally proves it.
“The science is still out. You talk to scientists. Is it manmade? You'll talk to some who say, no, it's not that impactful, you know, so I'm not the expert,” he said.
He says he wants to protect the environment and ensure that the state has clean air and clean water and be good stewards of the environment but he doesn’t agree with shutting down industries or changing our way of life for the sake of climate change.
Ganahl worries that the state has gone too far too fast to try to address climate change in a way that’s impacting families and businesses.
“We've got to take a more balanced approach. We all care about clean air, clean land, clean water, but removing our oil and gas industry and going straight to renewables when we're not ready to do that is not the right approach. And I would take a more balanced all of the above approach and get us there over a longer period of time,” she said.
Ganahl’s all of the above approach would include renewables, but also nuclear and natural gas.
When asked about the state’s historic wildfires, however, after acknowledging their devastation, Ganahl criticized the governor’s climate actions saying that they are making rebuilding more costly for families without acknowledging the role climate change has played in those fires.
Ganahl also didn’t have specific examples of what she would do to prevent fires other than mentioning forest management as a general concept.
Lopez also mentioned forest management as a priority, saying the state is too reactionary and needs to focus on clearing timber, preventing soil erosion and creating fire barriers.
On inflation and economy
Both Ganahl and Lopez have criticized the Governor over the economy and inflation, but the two have different takes on how much the state can control it.
Ganahl believes there is a lot the governor can do, like reducing regulations that are impacting businesses, cutting back the state-imposed fees on families, cutting the state income tax to zero and working on a more competitive bidding process for transportation projects among other things
Lopez, on the other hand, doesn’t believe the governor has much control over inflation but says he definitely has a voice. He says if elected he would mandate for the president to remove some restrictions and bring back the pipeline to allow for oil and gas drilling.
When asked how much control he thinks the governor has over the president, Lopez clarified, saying the governor has influence, not control.
Lopez has said repeatedly on the campaign trail and in interviews that the state government has about 30% waste, fraud and abuse.
On the issue of fraud, Lopez pointed to the federal PPP loans saying that some businesses misrepresented themselves to get the money they shouldn’t have been entitled to.
However, he was not able to provide any examples of fraud in state government, saying instead he will find it once he gets into the governor’s seat.
On election security
Ever since 2020, the issue of election security has caused an increasing divide in the republican party with some believing claims that have been repeatedly disproven that the election was stolen from Donald Trump while others.
Lopez says he believes the elections need to be fine-tuned. He questions the state’s voter rolls and says he wants a forensic audit on each election that includes hand counts.
Colorado does perform a risk-limiting audit after every election and has automatic recounts in close races.
“We're not the gold standard been any stretch of the imagination. For anybody to believe that we are the gold standard I would say you know what you need to reevaluate what the gold standard means,” Lopez said.
When asked how Lopez would be able to trust the system he is relying on to get himself elected he says he trusts the people and will trust the poll watchers and election judges but said he will have to wait and see what happens.
In interviews and on the campaign trail, Ganahl has been measured in her answers. She tells Denver7 she wouldn’t be running if she didn’t think she could win but admits that she is worried about people’s lack of confidence in the voting system.
Her bigger concern is how to rebuild that voter confidence and says there are things the state can do to improve the process. Ganahl wants to look at the use of more photo IDs and cleaning up voter rolls.
Ganahl does, however, believe that mail-in voting should be allowed.
“I think for the single mom who can't, you know, take a day off to go vote or the busy teacher or farmer or rancher who can't, you know, figure out how to leave their crops for a day to go do that it's very important to have that available,” she said.
Both Lopez and Ganahl brought up concerns about ballot harvesting.
Colorado law stipulates that ballots can be delivered on a voter’s behalf by someone they choose. However, that person cannot return more than 10 ballots.
The primary is on June 28. Voters can cast a ballot between now and 7 p.m. on that day. The winner will move on to the general election to take on Governor Polis.