Back in June, we went through the five statewide offices that will be on the ballot in 2022 in an attempt to provide some clarity about who (on the Republican side) might be running for what in Colorado. Two months later, the 2022 election situation (and The Big Line) remains what you might charitably call, “fluid” for the GOP. Here’s a look at where things stand as of today with each of the five big statewide races…
Former El Paso County Republican Party Chairperson Eli Bremer made it official earlier this month that he will seek the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in 2022, with his eyes on incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet next November. Bremer is virtually unknown to most Colorado voters and isn’t even a slam dunk choice for more politically-astute Republicans, but he’s probably a better option for the GOP than Juli Henry, strange newcomer Erik Aadland or Peter Yu, who ran a no-hope campaign in CO-02 in 2020 before losing to incumbent Democrat Joe Neguse.
The big remaining question for Republicans is whether someone else might join the GOP field for Senate, with right-wing radio host/attorney Dan Caplis still pondering a campaign of his own. Caplis is certainly not more likely to defeat Bennet in a General Election, but he could make the Republican Primary more interesting.
Bottom Line: If Republicans had a good candidate to run for U.S. Senate in 2022, that person would likely already be in the race. Bennet wasn’t going to be a national target for Republicans anyway — not after former Sen. Cory Gardner face-planted last November — so the eventual GOP nominee is essentially just the person who will finish in second place 15 months from now.
Republicans know that they aren’t going to beat incumbent Democrat Jared Polis in 2022, but somebody has to try. Former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez has been running for Governor since [checks calendar] August 2019, but his ceiling isn’t much higher than the third place finish he had in the 2018 GOP gubernatorial primary.
University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl is the lone remaining Republican statewide officeholder in Colorado. She has been teasing a potential run for Governor since late 2020. After flirting with the possibility of running for State Treasurer instead, it appears that Ganahl will indeed jump into the race (officially) sometime in early September.
Bottom Line: This is Polis’ race to lose. Ganahl’s candidacy doesn’t change that.
If you’re a Republican and an attorney in Colorado, then step right up! We’ve heard nary a whisper about any potential GOP challengers to Democratic incumbent Phil Weiser.
Meanwhile, Weiser is raising massive amounts of money for his re-election campaign, building up the kind of early financial lead that should cause any late-thinking Republican opponent to reconsider their plans for the next year or so. If the GOP can’t unearth a strong challenger within the next couple of months, this could be a seat that they all but concede to Democrats in early 2022.
Bottom Line: Weiser’s seat is getting safer by the week, but if the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) is committed to spending money here, then SOMEBODY should emerge within the next month or two.
We’ve heard a LOT of potential Republican names for State Treasurer — including that of former State Senate President Kevin Grantham — but none that seem to be all that serious about challenging Democratic incumbent Dave Young in 2022. The fact that Republicans are talking again about 2018 Lt. Gov. candidate Lang Sias is a good sign that the GOP search is just going in circles.
Because State Treasurer is such a relatively uninteresting position for most Colorado voters, there is still time for Republicans to line up a decent challenger for 2022. It would be harder, for example, to catch up with Weiser’s money than what Young will be able to raise just because of the office involved. Nevertheless, the clock is ticking for the GOP.
Bottom Line: The question here is more about whether the GOP can find a candidate who really WANTS to run for Treasurer and isn’t just going to go through the motions merely so that Young isn’t left unopposed.
SECRETARY OF STATE
This is the one race that Republicans appeared to be ready for in 2022, with former Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese long believed to be prepping a challenge to incumbent Democrat Jena Griswold. In fact, we expected Pugliese to have formally announced a campaign by now. From what we hear, however, Pugliese is probably NOT going to be a candidate in 2022; among other things, she and her advisers have apparently gotten nervous about the mountains of opposition research just waiting to be uncovered by Democrats.
So who do Republicans turn to now? Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters might be amenable (we joke, but you know you wouldn’t be surprised if Republicans nominated her in 2022). We heard a few names of potential candidates earlier this year, but they all likely moved on to something else when it seemed like Pugliese’s run was a foregone conclusion.
Bottom Line: It’s back to square one for Republicans after thinking for months that they had this spot filled. The GOP does, however, seem to remain more enthusiastic about challenging Griswold than, say, Weiser or Young.