As we wrote on Thursday, we had been waiting to post our annual post-election “Winners and Losers” list until we actually knew all of the election winners and losers (we’re looking at you, Lauren Boebert).
The Losingest Losers of 2022
After much ballot counting, Boebert finally emerged as the winner in CO-03 on Friday when Democrat Adam Frisch conceded that he was unlikely to make up a margin of about 500 votes. But Boebert is now severely-wounded as a politician after barely winning a district that was considered to lean toward Republicans by about 9 points. Numerous stories emerged about how CO-03 voters were sick of Boebert’s shtick and just wanted a Congressperson who would do the work of representing the district while not constantly serving as a source of embarrassment.
Boebert’s near-loss proved that she has no real base of support in CO-03; her focus has been on courting national small donors who find her antics to be amusing in part because they don’t have to worry about the fact that she doesn’t do her actual job. By spending the final weekends of the 2022 campaign in Tennessee and Florida, Boebert proved to her actual constituents how little she cares about them or their opinions.
Boebert was always a political liability for Republicans. Now she’s a wounded liability, which is even worse. Colorado Republicans should have focused on taking out Boebert in a Primary in 2022, but they damn well better get it done in 2024 or they’re going to lose the seat to a Democrat (Frisch has already filed to run again).
Kristi Burton Brown
Two years ago, KBB was working as the President of a militia group (FEC United) and running to be the Chairperson of the Colorado Republican Party. She won that election in March 2021 after traveling the state shamelessly appeasing grassroots election denialists. To the extent that she had a plan to help Republicans win in 2022, it didn’t work. At all.
Today, KBB is the leader of a Colorado Republican Party that just suffered an election disaster that outgoing Republican Rep. Colin Larson accurately described as “an extinction level event.” Democrats even outperformed Republicans in beet-red areas like Douglas County, where Democrat Bob Marshall was elected to the State House (HD-43). Jared Polis also earned more votes than Ganahl in her home county.
After the election, KBB said repeatedly that Republicans had put forth one of their best slates of candidates in recent years. Not only is this wrong, it’s a silly argument to make when you’ve just been trounced up and down the ticket; if this was really the best the GOP could do, then they are well and truly screwed for years to come.
This Tweet from Taylor Rhodes of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) sums up how many Colorado Republicans are feeling about the KBB era:
— Taylor D. Rhodes (@TDRColorado) November 18, 2022
Tim Walsh and Colin Larson
Tim Walsh spent more than $1 million of his own money to lose a State Senate seat by 10 points to Lisa Cutter in SD-20 (see our “Winners” post for more). You couldn’t go 5 minutes without seeing a Walsh ad on cable television in Jefferson County during the last six weeks of the campaign, but no amount of TV time could overcome his doublespeak on issues like election denial and abortion rights.
Colin Larson, the incumbent Republican in HD-25 (South Jeffco) started 2022 by debating about running for Congress in CO-07. When Republican Rep. Hugh McKean died suddenly in October, Larson became the odds-on favorite to become the next House Minority Leader. But you can’t be in House leadership if you’re not…IN THE HOUSE. Larson’s surprise loss to Democrat Tammy Story leaves Republicans without a single elected office in all of Jefferson County (unless you count the office of County Surveyor, which we don’t).
Larson is responsible for one of the more memorable post-election quotes, but also some of the most poorly-aged statements of the cycle. Here’s Larson speaking on behalf of Joe O’Dea’s Senate campaign on the night of the Primary Election (June 28):
Just a few months later, Larson was saying this to Colorado Public Radio:
“Honestly I think Colorado Republicans need to take this and learn the lesson that the party is dead. This was an extinction-level event. This was the asteroid that ended the reign of the dinosaur, and in this case, the dinosaur was the Republican party.”
In that same story, Larson discusses how Republicans seemed to believe that Colorado voters didn’t care about the ATTEMPTED COUP ON JANUARY 6, 2022:
“January 6th, we just thought it had fallen from most people’s minds. That just was not the case. They weren’t willing to look past the party.”
Larson said it’s even difficult for him personally. Although he’s always voted for Republicans, if Trump is the party’s presidential nominee in 2024 he said he couldn’t back him. “We don’t solve our problems with violence and insurrection and conspiracy theories.”
But they sure tried!
Hiedi Heidi Ganahl
We won’t belabor the point we made earlier this week, but when you end up being the worst statewide candidate in modern Colorado history, your place on this list is assured.
Anyone Even Remotely Connected to Ganahl’s Campaign
The Ganahl campaign for Governor was so historically bad that everyone involved will rightly be tainted for a long, long time. This is particularly true of the consultants (such as GOP “communications” adviser Matt Connelly) who were flailing around trying to defend Ganahl even AFTER she started talking about “furries” in schools. Ganahl’s many campaign managers and her spokesperson are included on this list, as are folks like Lindsey Datko of Jeffco Kids First, the leader of the Jefferson County Facebook group that enthusiastically promoted the “furry” conspiracy.
Moore is the election denier whom Ganahl chose as her running mate after Felix Lopez wisely turned her down. If Moore had hoped to make a second career in elected office, those chances died even before Ganahl’s 20-point loss. Moore’s primary role as Ganahl’s Lieutenant Governor nominee seems to have been to follow her around for strange photo ops while occasionally delivering bizarre, disjointed speeches (including one in which he insisted that their campaign was winning because the Polis campaign was running advertisements on television; this logic was so tortured it deserves an investigation from the United Nations).
Ganahl’s campaign even struggled to remember Moore’s name; a press release in October referred to him as “Danny Clark.”
The longtime Republican political consultant played a role in convincing Ganahl to run for Governor and was the General Consultant for Joe O’Dea’s terrible U.S. Senate campaign. Ganahl lost her race by 20; O’Dea was defeated by 15 points. We don’t know if it was Penry who convinced O’Dea to put another $1.6 million of his own money into the campaign in the last week – long after it was clear that O’Dea was toast – but even if it wasn’t, Penry definitely shouldn’t have allowed it to happen.
Penry keeps getting paid even though he keeps losing bigly. You’d need a shitload of newly-legalized magic mushrooms to convince yourself to hire Penry again.
Another longtime Republican consultant piled up significant losses in 2022. Philp was one of the main Republican figures involved in the redistricting process, which turned out to have been a complete disaster for the GOP. Philp helped to get lines redrawn in SD-3 (Pueblo) and then recruited a former Democrat (Stephen Varela) to switch parties and run as a Republican; Varela went on to lose to Democrat Nick Hinrichsen in a seat that was a must-have for the GOP if they hoped to win back control of the State Senate.
Philp and his “Patriot Pathways” company also directed Barbara Kirkmeyer’s losing effort in CO-08, which included one of the more egregious lies by a candidate in recent memory.
Kellner took political advice from his former boss and fellow failed AG candidate George Brauchler, which virtually guaranteed that 2022 would not work out well for him. Democrat Phil Weiser drubbed Kellner by 10 points in a race that exposed some serious warts for the JD-18 District Attorney.
Kellner might have been convinced to run for AG under the theory that he had nothing to lose (he is in the middle of his term in JD-18), but his campaign showed the danger of that argument. Kellner was narrowly elected as DA in 2020 (Arapahoe and Douglas counties, roughly) in a race that needed a recount; assuming he seeks re-election in 2024, he will have to deal with a laundry list of bad quotes and positions related to his failed AG campaign. Kellner is now on the record saying that he agreed with the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, and reporters and other political observers now know that crime rates have been rising in JD-18 at a faster rate than the Colorado average.
Kellner basically spent 2022 creating a hefty opposition research book that can (and will) be used against him later.
In September 2021, we wrote in this space that Republican Lang Sias should reject conversations about a potential run for State Treasurer based on the very simple fact that he has proven himself to be absolutely terrible at politics. Sias ran anyway, then proceeded to raise very little money while making a fool of himself en route to a 10 point loss to incumbent Democrat Dave Young.
Sias has now been a candidate for elected office in 6 of the last 7 election cycles. He’s only won once, for a State House seat in Arvada in 2016; he’s lost bids for Treasurer, Lieutenant Governor, Congress, and State Senate (twice). Sias is a perfectly nice guy who really needs to find a different hobby.
Conservative Talk Radio
Heidi Ganahl praised conservative talk radio in her Election Night speech and has continued to lavish thanks on these outlets in recent days. Ganahl and all of the other major Republican candidates liked the fact that stations such as KNUS and KOA radio didn’t ask difficult questions and ranted along with them about perceived failings of Democrats. Mandy Connell of KOA even openly campaigned for Ganahl in the latter weeks of the campaign, which sure seems like an official complaint waiting to happen.
Other hosts, from Dan Caplis and George Brauchler to Deborah Flora and Jimmy Sengenberger, spent hours screaming about Democrats. Election results in Colorado seem to indicate that nobody was listening.
The Gazette Editorial Board Industrial Complex
There was an incredible amount of garbage spewed out by the editorial pages of The Colorado Springs Gazette and its oft-ignored offspring The Denver Gazette. Under the direction of Editorial Page Editor Wayne Laugesen, the Gazette was the only news outlet in the entire state to endorse either Ganahl or Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, indicating again how completely out of touch the editorial pages are with the rest of Colorado.
But it was the Gazette’s disgusting argument in October that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were actually socialists (which is completely false) that cemented its awful reputation. The point of the editorial was to argue that Nazis were actually socialists and therefore sorta like Democrats because some Democrats seem to like socialist ideas…or something. It was as gross as it sounds. There are some really good political reporters at the Gazette who shouldn’t have to be associated with this crap.
For more on how the Gazette needs to spend some time in a mirror, check out this story from the Colorado Times Recorder.
The unknown Aadland pulled a “Brauchler” in 2022, failing to win two separate races in the same cycle (this is named after George Brauchler, who cratered as a candidate for Governor in 2018 before switching to Attorney General and losing that race). Aadland popped up out of nowhere in 2021 as a candidate for U.S. Senate, saying he “didn’t have time” to waste on a lower-level office. But when Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter announced in late 2021 that he would not seek re-election in CO-07, Aadland switched races; he eventually managed to win the GOP nomination against Democrat Brittany Pettersen, who beat him by 15 points in the General Election.
The Republican nominee for an at-large State Board of Education seat was supposed to be the next big thing for the Colorado GOP. Republicans went out of their way to mention his name whenever possible, and often included him in bold type when promoting multi-candidate events (something that is unusual for a State Board of Education race). Maloit then went out and lost by 10 points to Democrat Kathy Plomer. At least now he won’t have to sit by himself on the Republican bench.
Local media outlets generally did a great job covering the 2022 election (see our “Winners” section), but we’re still baffled at how many news organizations continue to trot out poorly-informed “pundits” for election-related commentary. For example, CBS4 Denver is still asking Dick Wadhams for his thoughts, even though Wadhams hasn’t advised a victorious Republican campaign since the dawn of the Internet. The lefty voice on CBS4 Denver is Mike Dino, while Andy Boian speaks for “Democrats” on Fox 31 and Channel 2; both regularly offered bland, obvious analysis that reflected very little inside knowledge.
And then there’s longtime politico Eric Sondermann, whose columns for the Gazette newspapers could be written by someone observing Colorado from the other side of the planet. It’s important for news outlets to ask analysts for insight and perspective on elections, but it would help if these talking heads had something to say.