Republican Heidi Ganahl enters 2022 Colorado governor’s race
Heidi Ganahl, the CU regent and Colorado Republicans’ bet to take down Gov. Jared Polis in 2022, said Colorado is in decline as she kicked off her campaign Tuesday morning in Monument.
“I’m just heartbroken over what’s happening to our state. I see everything going in the wrong direction,” she told reporters at Rosie’s Diner, arguing that crime must be curtailed and that Polis is an obstacle to individual upward mobility. “At some point you’ve got to raise your hand and be the change you want to see in Colorado.”
The 55-year-old, who also refused to say whether she accepts the 2020 presidential election results, made little secret of her candidacy, increasing her statewide visibility by writing a column for the Colorado Springs Gazette and hosting a podcast called Heidi’s Colorful Colorado. For months, Republican leaders have for months spoken of her as the party’s best person to go up against the 46-year-old governor in 2022.
Any shred of mystery remaining regarding plans vanished Friday when her campaign filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.
Republicans hold less electoral power in Colorado than any point since World War II, about which Ganahl said: “I think we have to message our platform better, and how we fix the problems of Colorado.”
On Saturday, state party officials will vote on a controversial proposal to end open primaries on the GOP side, which would exclude millions of voters from the process of selecting its nominees for major offices. Ganahl declined to take a side in that debate, and also declined to say whether she believed the 2020 presidential election was conducted legitimately.
“I’m not going to get into that right now,” she said. Many state lawmakers say election integrity is a problem, and a smaller faction question whether the election was outright stolen.
Ganahl serves on the University of Colorado Board of Regents and is the only remaining Republican that holds a statewide elected office in Colorado. She won that seat in 2016, topping former House Speaker Alice Madden by four points and outperforming former President Donald Trump.
If she wins this race she’ll become the first female governor in state history, and just the second elected Republican governor of Colorado since 1975.
Addressing a few dozen supporters in the diner parking lot during her roughly 15-minute speech, Ganahl called out what she sees are the issues in Colorado.
“Higher gas prices, mental health crisis, inflation, unemployment, new taxes, more violent crime — this all shows a pattern: Jared Polis is listening to his party elites, his friends in San Francisco, D.C. and New York,” she said.
Ganahl didn’t limit her criticisms to out-of-state cities, arguing Colorado is drifting toward Boulder’s Pearl Street and away from the proverbial Main Street. In addition to insulting the governor’s hometown, she criticized him as wealthy and out-of-touch. But even Ganahl has openly admitted taking down a big-spending incumbent like Polis will be difficult.
“He’s smart, no question, and a good politician,” she said, adding that he “doesn’t get the climb because he’s never had to climb. Remember that silver spoon?”
Polis is worth hundreds of millions and is the son of parents who founded a successful digital company before the dot-com bubble burst. But Ganahl is a multimillionaire, too.
After her first husband died in a 1994 plane crash, Ganahl founded the pet care service Camp Bow Wow, which grew exponentially until she sold it to animal health care giant VCA in 2014, shortly before entering state politics.
She’s now a mother of four, and married to Jason Ganahl, who founded Colorado businesses GQue BBQ and Ice Cream Farm.
As a regent, Ganahl has been a staunch defender of the conservative perspective on campus, speaking out against what she sees as the marginalization of conservative students. She also publicly supported former CU Boulder visiting scholar John Eastman, a law professor who tried to help Trump overturn 2020 election results.
Earlier this summer, she told The Denver Post that her podcast, on which she interviews Coloradans from many walks of life, is part of her broader effort to celebrate the diversity of thought she laments is missing on campus.
After Democrats took control of the Board of Regents in 2020 and fired Republican and then-CU system President Mark Kennedy, Ganahl alleged that he was forced out “for the high crime of not being a Democrat or left-wing academic.”
Colorado Democratic Party spokesman Nico Delgado was quick with a statement about Ganahl’s announcement on Tuesday, saying she “can’t hide her long track record of being in lockstep with Donald Trump, Cory Gardner, Lauren Boebert and the far-right fringe.”
“Ganahl’s association with right-wing politicians and groups doesn’t match up with her dishonest rebrand — and Coloradans will see right through it,” he added.
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