For the past couple of months now, as our readers know and is slowly making its way into political news coverage, Republican CU Regent Heidi Ganahl has been waging a low-intensity public relations campaign centered around a “traveling podcast” to raise her name ID ahead of a run for higher statewide office in 2022. Ganahl, the only remaining Republican holding even a minor statewide elected office in Colorado after Cory Gardner’s ouster last November, is not so much what you’d call a “rising star” as the GOP’s last potential hope for a turnaround after years of defeat.
Unfortunately for Regent Ganahl and beleaguered Republicans hoping she could be their ticket out of the electoral abyss, the recent political tumult at CU–over the conservative Benson Center and professor John Eastman’s role in the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and more recently the departure of divisive CU President Mark Kennedy who Ganahl helped install just two years ago–has created serious obstacles to running on her record there.
Nonetheless, over the past few month it’s become very clear that Ganahl intends to run for something, especially since her statewide at-large seat on the CU Board of Regents may not even exist in 2022. The most common assumption is that she wants to run against Gov. Jared Polis, but as we noted earlier this week in our Big Line 2022 update, Ganahl may be considering a run for Treasurer instead in consideration of Gov. Polis high approval ratings.
And that’s where Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette’s political blog picks up the story:
Until recently, pretty much every Republican operative and insider in the state has been describing Ganahl as the candidate most likely to challenge Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, the wealthy tech entrepreneur who served five terms in Congress before being elected governor in 2018 by 10 points.
After a brief scare last year when, as she put it in a recent speech, Ganahl “had to fight through a brain tumor”— which wasn’t cancerous but required surgery — she’s sounding again like she has her eye on higher office, though Republican sources say she’s told them in the last month that she’s considering a run for state treasurer or U.S. Senate instead of governor.
Ganahl wouldn’t be the first Republican to walk and talk like a candidate for office without actually filing to run for office, which obliges the candidate to then comply with campaign finance and reporting laws. In 2017, soon-to-be gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton was criticized for hosting fundraisers for the Colorado GOP’s independent expenditure committee and a SuperPAC to support Stapleton’s campaign as a candidate in all but formality. In Ganahl’s case, however, there appears to be a more basic problem: Heidi Ganahl doesn’t know if she can beat Jared Polis.
There’s little question, as Luning’s story continues, that at least up until recently Ganahl has been fully focused on running for governor:
[D]elivering the keynote at a recent meeting of Jefferson County’s Foothills Republicans in a talk titled “What’s the future for the Republican Party and Colorado?” she took aim at Polis throughout, not even mentioning any other state politicians…
After ticking off some of the restrictions imposed by Polis and local officials during the pandemic, Ganahl unveiled a rhetorical device meant to puncture Polis’ generally high approval ratings.
“Was he paranoid? No, it was worse than that. Paranoid people only limit themselves, but Polis limited all of us. That’s not paranoid, that’s Karen-oid,” she said. “Polis is the king of Karens.” [Pols emphasis]
So first of all, if Ganahl thinks anybody is going to miss her loudly blowing a homophobic dog whistle by emasculating Gov. Polis as “king of the Karens,” she’s mistaken. It’s completely contrary to the tolerant image Ganahl wants to project to swingable voters repelled by Republican culture war red meat. And with the public still solidly in support of Gov. Polis’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is just not a message that helps Ganahl outside the “deplorable” Republican base. There’s a lot more we could say about Ganahl’s “Karen” slur against Gov. Polis if we weren’t taking the high road, but we are.
What we will say is this: letting speculation grow about stepping down to a lesser race, as George Brauchler can tell you, is a terrible way to kick off a campaign. If Ganahl can’t beat Polis, she can’t beat Michael Bennet either–and choosing instead to run for a lesser office throws Ganahl’s motivations for that job into question.
What office you want to run for (and why) is definitely something you’re supposed to figure out before you launch your campaign, but for all the aforementioned reasons Ganahl doesn’t appear to have that luxury and the clock is ticking.
So like the gender reveal party you hope doesn’t start a wildfire, we’ll all find out together.