Jun 29, 2022 - News

What Tuesday's primary election tells us about Colorado politics

Illustration of the Colorado flag with a checkmark and box instead of a C and the sun.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The battle lines for the November midterms took shape Tuesday as the major parties picked their favorite candidates in Colorado's primary election.

Why it matters: Colorado's status as a blue state will face a real test this year as Republicans campaign with the wind at their backs and office-holding Democrats scramble to explain the tough economics of the day.

State of play: The best chances for the GOP to flip seats will come in the U.S. Senate, down-ballot statewide races and the state Senate, according to strategists.

In the closest-watched primary contests, Republicans took a pragmatic approach and nominated candidates with the broadest appeal — scorning a slate of 2020 election deniers and loyalists to former President Trump.

  • In the U.S. Senate race, wealthy businessman Joe O'Dea emerged as the party's nominee, while Heidi Ganahl, the only statewide elected Republican, took the mantle in the governor's race.
  • Tina Peters, the Mesa County clerk indicted for election tampering, and Ron Hanks, a state lawmaker who attended the Jan. 6 rally at the U.S. Capitol, both lost by wide margins, preliminary results show.
  • Conservative firebrand Lauren Boebert easily won in the Western Slope's 3rd District, but in other congressional races, far-right candidates Lori Saine (8th Congressional District), Laurel Imer (7th District) and Dave Williams (5th District) never gained traction.

What they're saying: Elsewhere on the ballot, the GOP nominated more women and people of color than previous elections.

"Just across the board the Republican Party is finally deciding to run candidates that look like the electorate," said Tyler Sandberg, a GOP strategist who worked on a dozen primary contests.

  • The GOP is feeling more confident about breaking the state's Democratic tide because "you're voting for literally a different kind of Republican," he added.

The other side: Democrats made a big bet in the primary and spent millions to boost hard-line Republicans they considered weaker general election opponents.

But it backfired.

  • Still, Democrats wasted no time trying to backtrack and label GOP candidates as too extreme.

By the numbers: About 770,000 voters cast ballots, and the 18% voter turnout in Colorado fell below expectations.

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