DENVER – Republican CU Regent Heidi Ganahl formally announced her campaign for Colorado’s governorship Tuesday at a diner in her hometown of Monument, pledging to bring back Republican leadership in a state where she is the only current statewide elected member of her party.
Speaking to a few dozen supporters at Rosie’s Diner Tuesday morning as she kicked off a 30-county tour to promote her candidacy, Ganahl pointed to increasing crime rates and homelessness in Denver as among the things she wants to focus on first should she get the party nomination and face Democratic Gov. Jared Polis next November.
“I’m just heartbroken over what’s happening in our state. I see everything going in the wrong direction, and a lot of my friends and family feel the same way,” she said. “And at some point, you’ve got to raise your hand and be the change you want to see in Colorado.”
Ganahl beat former House Majority Leader Alice Madden in the 2016 CU Regent at-large race by about 56,000 votes and is the only statewide elected Republican currently in office in Colorado.
“It’s very lonely and we need to change that,” she told supporters.
She also writes a newspaper column, hosts a podcast and founded Camp Bow Wow, which turned into a large-scale franchised pet care service. Ganahl filed as a candidate for governor last Friday ahead of Tuesday’s announcement.
She was born and spent several years in Orange County, California, before moving to Monument as a girl. She received a bachelor’s degree at CU Boulder and a master’s degree from the University of Denver. She started Camp Bow Wow after the death of her first husband.
Along the way, she met, married and started a family with Jason Ganahl, who runs GQue BBQ and Ice Cream Farm.
“I’ve been knocked off the mountain and I know the way back up,” Ganahl said. “This is the common thread of my uncommon story – to come back, give back.”
Ganahl has pushed for more conservative voices on college campuses during her time as a regent and was opposed to the firing of former CU President Mark Kennedy, who said it was a power grab by the Democratic-led board.
She said several times that Polis was only interested in turning Colorado into various Democratic-led cities that are common foils for Republicans – San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C. – and characterized him as being “born with a silver spoon.”
And according to the Denver Post, she would not say whether she accepted the results of last year’s presidential election, in which Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump.
She acknowledged that Polis was “smart” and a “good politician” with deep pockets who would be difficult to beat should they face off in next year’s general election. But she said that she would focus her efforts toward turning around things she feels are “moving in the wrong direction.”
“Higher gas prices, mental health crisis, inflation, unemployment, new taxes, more violent crime,” she said. “[Polis] is not listening to us.”
Ganahl said she would on Day 1 address “the skyrocketing suicide rate among our children” and “roll up my sleeves and get to the root cause of homelessness and crime so we can fix it, not finance it.”
“Then, let’s work together to fix the darn roads and make sure our lifeline to rural Colorado is always open,” she added. “…I’ll do all I can to unleash the economy again. We’ll reduce taxes and regulations on Colorado’s job creators.”
Ganahl has been discussed among both Republicans and Democrats as the likely GOP nominee for governor for months as her party works to try to recover from losses in 2018 and 2020.
Nico Delgado, a spokesperson for the Colorado Democratic Party, said in a statement that Ganahl “can’t hide her long track record of being in lockstep with Donald Trump, Cory Gardner, Lauren Boebert, and the far-right fringe.”
Ganahl will also visit Castle Rock, Centennial, Aurora, Westminster, Fort Collins and Greeley on Tuesday before heading out to southern Colorado and the Western Slope this week.