Feb 7, 2022 - News

GOP U.S. Senate candidates divided over 2020 election results

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The question of whether the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump remains the differentiator in the Republican field for U.S. Senate — and among the Colorado voters who will decide the party's candidate.

Driving the news: The seven most prominent candidates for the GOP nomination debated for the first time Thursday and made the former president a focus of their remarks in both subtle and overt appeals to Trump's supporters.

  • At least two expressed doubts about the results of the 2020 presidential election, some shared debunked theories, and a majority extolled Trump's policies as the right path.
  • More specifically, state Rep. Ron Hanks (R-Cañon City) pointed to his attendance at the Jan. 6 rally at the U.S. Capitol as evidence of his Trump loyalty. Gino Campana, a Fort Collins businessman, touted his appointment by the former president to serve as chair of the Public Buildings Reform Board.

Why it matters: The GOP primary to challenge U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a two-term Democrat, is entering a crucial phase two months from the Republican state convention where six of the seven candidates will compete for a place on the June primary ballot.

  • So far, candidate's personality and Trump are what separate the contenders, who are doing little to set themselves apart on the issues.

What they're saying: In last week's debate, hosted by the Republican Women of Weld, candidates were asked point-blank to say whether they believed the 2020 election was stolen.

  • "I think it's okay to question things. … But I think it's time for us to move on," said Eli Bremer, a former El Paso County GOP chair and 2008 Olympian, who expressed confidence in Colorado's election.
  • "[D]espite the doubts we have about [the 2020 election], the system worked itself out so that Biden is the president," said Greg Moore, a professor at Colorado Christian University.
  • "We're in the right for wanting to make sure that our elections are secure," said Deborah Flora, who avoided a direct answer but expressed support for Biden skeptics.
  • "I don't believe the election was stolen. Joe Biden is our president," said Joe O'Dea, a businessman and first-time candidate.
  • "This is kind of a tough question," responded businessman Peter Yu, who never provided an answer.
  • "After everything was contested, I couldn't find hard evidence" the election was stolen, Campana said.
  • "Trump won this," said Hanks, who also argued that state elections are not secure.

The voters: In the crowd, the Republican activists who gathered were likewise split. Hanks' stance that Trump won drew vocal applause from the most ardent opponents. But others were less convinced and worried the issue would hurt the party's chances in the November election.

  • Brian Hutton, a 59-year-old from Greeley, told Axios Denver that he's looking for a candidate like Trump. But when it comes to the 2020 election, he said bluntly: "That's over."
  • Alexander "Skinny" Winkler, a former state lawmaker from the Arvada area, said Hanks couldn't be the nominee. "In order to win in Colorado, we've got to have someone who can win unaffiliated voters," he said.

Be smart: The early stages of the GOP primary are aimed at the most ardent party members, the ones who are likely to attend the state convention.

  • It's a complicated race, as a maximum of three candidates can secure ballot slots from the convention vote.
  • O'Dea is the one candidate seeking to qualify by getting voter petition signatures.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Denver stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more