We’ve written at length in this space about Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ron Hanks — specifically that he is the “center of gravity” in the large GOP field vying for the opportunity to challenge incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet in November. It seems that Colorado Republicans are finally coming around to the fact that Hanks is a very real problem for them in 2022…yet at the same time, they remain so terrified of the GOP base that they can’t help but admire Hanks’s dedication to the gospel of the “Big Lie.”
Last weekend’s county assembly meetings in Colorado proved — again — that the Republican base in Colorado is still more interested in conspiracy theories and “owning the liberals” than it is in selecting candidates who can win in a General Election. Even House Minority Leader Hugh McKean couldn’t get enough support to make the Primary ballot via the assembly process.
Reality is irrelevant for the GOP base. If you can come up with a cute slogan that employs a clever trigger word, then you have everything you need to win a Republican Primary in 2022. Consider Dr. Rae Ann Weber, an unknown Republican who took TOP LINE at the El Paso County GOP assembly by promising to be a “constitutional coroner” and pledging to fight back against mask and vaccine mandates (for dead people?) What, exactly, is a “constitutional coroner”? Your guess is as good as ours.
The power of the Republican base was a major topic of discussion following the assemblies. On Monday, former District Attorney George Brauchler was filling in for Peter Boyles on “The Peter Boyles Show” on KNUS radio, with former Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams participating as a guest, when the topic turned to Hanks:
BRAUCHLER: And I also see, I’m guessing here, Ron Hanks. I see Ron Hanks pulling out the lion’s share of whatever vote can be had at the assembly, largely because they speak to the…I guess to the folks that are more likely to be there. [Pols emphasis] Am I crack-smoke crazy on that, Dick?
WADHAMS: You know, I anticipate the same thing, George. Pam [Anderson] is not going to go through the assembly – she submitted petitions. The Senate race, other than Joe O’Dea, all of the Senate candidates are going through the assembly. So that could be a wild afternoon in the Senate race. But I do agree with you that Ron Hanks probably starts with an advantage among delegates because he is the one candidate in the race that really does represent that view of the stolen election. Um, the others are not. So we’ll see how that plays out.
BRAUCHLER: I disagree, strongly, with the stolen election thing, but I respect his willingness to at least come out and say it. [Pols emphasis] So many of the other candidates for office, and you’ve seen this, want to dance around and finesse the issue. Like, ‘Well, I don’t want to sound like I’m so extremist still, but I can’t really alienate…’ At least Ron Hanks comes out and says, ‘It was stolen, I truly, blah, blah.’ At least he gives us that to make a decision from…I do think that’s a good thing. I want to know where candidates stand more than I want them to give an answer that doesn’t offend. Because what offends me is not answering the question.
We recognized a long time ago that Hanks was a serious threat to win the Republican Senate Primary because he was speaking directly to the GOP base, but apparently folks like Brauchler needed to see it for themselves at the county assemblies. The most telling part of the conversation, however, is when Brauchler acknowledges that he “respects” the fact that Hanks is willing to say that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.
This is precisely the reason that Colorado Republicans are in such a political pickle in 2022.
It is the same reason that Congressperson Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert (R-ifle) has become the face of the Colorado Republican Party despite the fact that her entire existence seems to be centered only around getting attention on social media. Republicans who are not prone to mindless conspiracy theories were happy to support outspoken politicians like Hanks and Boebert, but by encouraging this behavior — or at the very least not bothering to condemn it — they allowed these same people to use their nonsense rhetoric to fuel their own political rise. Hanks is definitely a problem for the GOP — but he’s a problem of their own creation.
More rational people in the Republican Party know what is happening to them…they just don’t do anything about it. Take a look at what Wadhams wrote in a column for The Denver Post earlier this month:
Unaffiliated voters might be rejecting the Biden presidency and Democratic control of Congress and the state legislature but if they are faced with Republican candidates who are Trump clones parroting “Big Lie” stolen election conspiracy theories, they will be driven right back to Democratic candidates.
Unaffiliated voters will be looking for real answers from Republican candidates on the real issues of inflation, crime and Covid shutdowns. They do not want to hear about stolen election conspiracy theories that make Republican candidates look like unserious buffoons. [Pols emphasis]
Right. Yet just this week, George Brauchler is talking on the radio about how he respects Ron Hanks for being brave enough to lie to people, and Wadhams says nothing in response.
Hanks is a relatively-unknown state lawmaker from Cañon City who doesn’t appear to have the ability to raise any money, but he can get his name on the June Primary ballot just by screaming incessantly about Dominion Voting machines and paper ballots and election audits. Hanks is even using HIS OWN PRIVATE FOOTAGE from the Jan. 6 insurrection as a selling point for his candidacy. At Republican Senate candidate forums, Hanks regularly elicits the loudest response from the audience whenever he starts talking about the “Big Lie.” Hanks has a good chance of making the Primary ballot at the GOP state assembly next month, and from there anything can happen (just ask Darryl Glenn).
It was about this time last year when the Colorado Republican Party was looking for a new Chairperson. Every last one of the main contenders for the job ran on a “Big Lie” platform. The eventual winner, Kristi Burton Brown (KBB), went so far as to say, “The Republican Party will never go back to the pre-Trump era.”
People like KBB and Boebert have used the “Big Lie” to gain support and influence within the Republican Party, so it should surprise nobody that politicians such as Hanks and Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters (now running for Secretary of State) are following the same script.
As we’ve said again and again, words matter. Voters in Colorado have heard Republicans loud and clear.