By Brandon Wark of Free State Colorado
Brandon started Free State Colorado as a way to connect with and inform fellow Liberty-minded Coloradans. His work there is fantastic, so if you enjoy his thorough write-up on the recent primaries and want to learn more about the issues facing Colorado, head over to Freestatecolorado.com and see the rest of his catalogue, including interviews with RMGO’s Executive Director Taylor D. Rhodes. All content that follows is a result of his relentless research, and he remains an invaluable member for the No-Compromise Second Amendment community. Some images were omitted due to formatting; to see the whole article, click here.
July 14, 2022
On June 28, 2022, Colorado held Primary Elections for both the Democratic and Republican Parties.
Over one million of Colorado’s Registered Voters selected their preferred candidates to represent these parties on November’s ballot.
The stakes were high, and many were surprised with the results.
Outside spending by Democratic groups seemingly backfired when the “extreme” candidates they were promoting lost to moderate, establishment endorsed candidates.
Grassroots voters were disappointed to see establishment candidates overwhelmingly win, while moderate Republicans were excited that “electable” candidates will be facing Democrats in November.
With the high-stakes 2022 midterm election, only months away, the Primary was infused with millions of dollars spent for and against candidates.
I’m going to dive into the election to learn what happened, and hopefully provide knowledge to Colorado’s Liberty Community for use in future elections.
My primary focus will be looking at spending, and the role of unaffiliated voters to analyze the results.
I refer to Grassroots candidates as those who won their way on the ballot through the State and County Assemblies.
Sometime in the future, I will dive into the Colorado Republican Establishment, who I see as members of the authoritarian, big-government political class.
But first, let’s get some background on Colorado’s Primary Elections.
Open Primaries in Colorado
Why do Unaffiliated Voters have a say in who the Republican and Democratic Parties nominate?
In 2016, Colorado voters approved Initiative 108, which made Colorado’s Major Party Primary Elections, open to Unaffiliated Voters. (Read the text of the measure)
At the time, one of the promoted benefits of the proposed Open Primaries was to increase voter engagement and give Unaffiliated Voters a voice.
That argument made sense to people who thought Democrats and Republicans would both be offering candidates in Primary Elections.
However, this year, most of the State had multiple Primary Candidates only on the Republican ballots.
Most Democratic races, especially incumbent seats, were unopposed.
Colorado’s Open Primaries have been challenged with lawsuits from Republicans who argue that non-party voters shouldn’t have control of party business.
The lawsuits have failed, and Colorado is stuck with Open Primaries for the foreseeable future.
Before 2016 and currently, Republican voters only receive a ballot with Republican candidates, and Democrat voters only receive a ballot with Democrat Candidates.
Since 2016, Colorado’s unaffiliated voters, receive two ballots, one for Republicans and one for Democrats.
Unaffiliated voters have the choice to return either the Republican or Democratic ballot.
As mentioned above, Colorado’s Democratic ballot featured very few choices, only a handful of seats across the state had more than one candidate.
On the other hand, Colorado’s Republican ballot featured several disputed contests for the most high-profile offices: Governor, Secretary of State, US Senator, and Congressional Districts 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8.
Unaffiliated Voters who wanted their votes to make an impact, turned in ballots for Republican candidates.
For better or for worse, Unaffiliated Voters had an impact in deciding who will face Polis, Griswold, Bennet, and others this fall.
So, how much of an impact did Unaffiliated Voters have?
Turnout & Registration
According to the Colorado Secretary of State, 1,217,383 ballots were cast in the June Primary.
After the Primary, the SOS reported that Colorado has 3,793,194 active voters.
These numbers give us 32.09% voter turnout in 2022.
In 2018, 1,161,574 ballots were cast, out of 3,308,060 active voters, equaling 35.11% turnout.
It’s not surprising there was higher turnout in 2018, as Colorado’s Democratic and Republican voters were both selecting Governor candidates.
How are Colorado’s voters divided among the parties?
As of July 1, 2022, Colorado has 3,809,209 active voters, which are registered as follows:
1,715,211 Unaffiliated, or 45.02% of total active voters.
1,069,070 Democrat, or 28.07%.
957,063 Republican, or 25.12%.
40,398 Libertarian, or 1.06%.
11,756 American Constitution, or 0.31%.
There are also voters registered with the Green (0.22%), Approval Voting (0.11%), and Unity (0.08%) Parties.
With nearly half of the electorate, and 758,000 more voters than Republicans, the influence of Unaffiliated Voters in any Primary could potentially outweigh the votes of every registered Republican or Democrat.
How did Unaffiliated Voters affect the 2022 Primary?
According to Colorado Public Radio (CPR), early data (prior to election night) showed 57% of unaffiliated voters chose the Republican ballot over the Democratic ballot.
The CPR article also reports that 30% of the ballots returned for the Republican Primary in early voting were unaffiliated voters.
In 2018, Unaffiliated Voters cast 17% of the ballots in the Republican Primary.
It will be very interesting to see the finalized data reporting how many Unaffiliated Voters voted in the GOP primary in relation to how many Republicans voted.
If the 30% figure is accurate for the final results, then roughly 190,000 of the 633,488 votes for US Senator (this race had the highest number of voters), were cast by Unaffiliated Voters.
The margin of victory was 56,560 votes.
Of course, it can’t be expected that all the votes went towards one specific candidate.
But, it is clear that by sheer volume, Unaffiliated Voters determine who wins, and who loses.
We don’t know how Unaffiliated Voters voted, but we do know the efforts that were made to influence their vote.
Money may not buy votes, but it’s role in influencing voters cannot be understated.
When it comes to election spending, most people think of money spent by candidate campaigns.
But, campaign spending is small compared to spending by committees and other groups.
Taking a look at specific races illustrates the enormous amount of money spent:
Ron Hanks Campaign (FEC Data)
Joe O’Dea Campaign (FEC Data)
(Note: O’Dea contributed $645,300.20 and loaned $500,000 to his own campaign)
American Policy Fund spent: (Open Secrets Link)
$476,572 against Ron Hanks
$595,811 for Joe O’Dea
Democratic Colorado PAC spent: (Open Secrets Link)
$2,049,036 against Ron Hanks
$2,023,117 against Joe O’Dea
This PAC is an Ashley Stevens (Democratic consultant) organization according to Open Secrets.
Ashley Stevens is a name we will see again.
- O’Dea spent $1.2 million more than Hanks.
- American Policy Fund (funded mostly by Colorado Construction tycoons) spent over $1 million for O’Dea and against Hanks
- What’s not reported are mailers (see below), and ads that called Hanks, “Too Conservative for Colorado,” and others labeled as “True Conservative Voter Guide(s),” supporting Hanks over O’Dea on a variety of conservative issues.
- According to the available data, Democrats spent more than all Republicans combined.
Secretary of State
Tina Peters Campaign (TRACER Link)
Pam Anderson Campaign (TRACER Link)
Mike O’Donnell Campaign (TRACER Link)
Citizens for Election Integrity (TRACER Link)
2022 Spending: $99,275
Funded by: The America Project ($100,000)
Paid nearly $80,000 to Thomas Partners Strategies.
The America Project is Lt. General Michael T. Flynn & former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne’s organization
Opposed: Pam Anderson
- Outside group Defend Colorado IEC (a Katie Kennedy group – Establishment Republican consultant) spent the most, over $620,000 against Peters, and for Anderson (See group info below)
- Campaign spending was relatively equal among the Peters, and Anderson campaigns
- The Election Integrity spending of nearly $100,000 wasn’t enough to match the spending against Peters.
Heidi Ganahl Campaign (TRACER Link)
Greg Lopez Campaign (TRACER Link)
Colorado Information Network IE Committee (TRACER Link)
2022 Spending: $1,513,285
Funded by: Strong Colorado For All ($1,525,000)
Strong Colorado For All seems to be an Ashley Stevens (Democrat consultant) group. The address (191 University Blvd #118) is registered at the same location as many of her other groups.
Opposed: Greg Lopez
- Ganahl’s campaign spent nearly $1 million more than Lopez’s campaign.
- Democrats $1.5 million spend against Lopez was big investment.
- Outside group Make Colorado Affordable Again spent over $175,000 against Lopez. (See below)
- Colorado Voter Guides apparently sent three mailers (example below), spending $348,800 comparing Lopez and Polis. (source: TRACER) Their mailers have a Union Bug indicating it is probably a mail shop that Democrats use.
- Outside group Defend Colorado IEC (a Katie Kennedy group) spent $265,000 for Ganahl. (See below)
- Ganahl’s decisive win was well-funded with nearly $3 million spent.
I’m only going to mention the outside spending for Congressional Races. (Open Secrets Link)
Congressional Districts 1, 2, 5, and 6 had no outside spending listed on opensecrets.org.
Congressional District 3
House Freedom Fund spent: (Open Secrets Link)
$354,704 for Lauren Boebert.
They also spent similar amounts for Scott Perry (PA-10), and Yvette Herrell (NM-2).
Better than Boebert spent: (Open Secrets Link)
$102,175 for Don Coram and against Boebert.
Congressional District 4
GOA Victory Fund spent: (Open Secrets Link)
$20,000 in support of Ken Buck.
Congressional District 7
For Colorado’s Future spent: (Open Secrets Link)
$253,375 for Erik Aadland
Registered Agent: Mike McCauley (a name we will see again)
Conservative Leadership for Colorado spent: (Open Secrets Link)
$117,483 for Tim Reichert.
Congressional District 8
Let America Work spent: (Open Secrets Link)
$446,616 for Barb Kirkmeyer, and against Lori Saine.
Americans for Prosperity Action spent: (Open Secrets Link)
$333,254 for Barb Kirkmeyer
314 Action Fund spent: (Open Secrets Link)
$112,914 for Lori Saine
$48,119 against Barb Kirkmeyer
According to spending on other campaigns, 314 Action Fund is a Democratic organization.
House Majority PAC spent: (Open Secrets Link)
$138,195 against Lori Saine
House Majority PAC is a Democratic Organization
Colorado Conservatives for Retaking Congress spent: (Open Secrets Link)
(A Katie Kennedy organization)
$40,000 against Lori Saine
$40,000 against Jan Kulmann
Organizations Spending on Multiple Races
Defend Colorado IEC (TRACER Link)
(A Katie Kennedy organization)
2022 Spending: $734,750
Funded by: Defend Colorado ($521,250), Steven Wells ($100,000), Liberty Oilfield Services ($50,000), Bayswater Management ($50,000)
Supported: Pam Anderson, Heidi Ganahl
Opposed: Tina Peters, Greg Lopez
Ready Colorado Action Fund (TRACER Link)
2022 Spending: $530,145
Funded by: Ready Colorado ($400,000 in 2021 $550,000 in 2020), Kent Thiry ($100,000 in 2020), CLCS Action ($30,000), Colorado Association of Homebuilders ($25,000)
Supported: Hugh McKean, Lisa Frizell, Rose Pugliese, Gabe Evans, Colin Larson, Anthony Hartsook, Paul Lundeen, Mary Bradfield,
Make Colorado Affordable Again (TRACER Link)
2022 Spending: $253,613.74
Registered Agent: Mike McCauley
Funded by: Al Fialkovich (Transworld Management)($25,000), George Solich (Northpoint Energy) ($50,000), Ready Colorado ($100,000), Weld Strong ($30,000)
Supported: Hugh McKean, Heidi Ganahl, Kevin Ross, Anthony Hartsook, Lisa Frizell
Opposed: Greg Lopez, Austin Hein, Karl O’Brian Dent, Terry C Dodd, William (Bill) C Jack, Mary Bradfield
Centennial Values (TRACER Link)
2022 Spending: $156,374
Funded by: Kent Thiry ($75,000), Voters for Colorado’s Future ($84,109)
Supported: Hugh McKean, Colin Larson
Opposed: William (Bill) C Jack, Austin Hein
Prosperity Through Property Rights (TRACER Link)
2022 Spending: $120,000
Funded by National Association of Realtors ($120,000)
Supported: Hugh McKean, Mary Bradfield, Cole Burger, Mischa Smith
RMGO Super PAC (TRACER Link)
Supported: Joseph Woyte, Karl O’Brian Dent, Robin Leah Webb, Terry C Dodd, William (Bill) C Jack, Austin Hein,
Opposed: Hugh McKean, Mary Bradfield
Mike McCauley is listed as a registered Agent for both Make Colorado Affordable Again, and For Colorado’s Future.
McCauley was also a previous Treasurer for: Security in America PAC, Constitutional Conservatives Fund, Protecting Ohio Action Fund, Utah First PAC, Pioneer PAC, Shout Out American PAC (source)
Now that we’ve explored spending on the election, let’s take a look at who won, and who lost.
Greg Lopez: 292,163 votes, or 46.13%
Heidi Ganahl: 341,124 votes, or 53.87%
Ganahl won by 48,961 votes or 7.74% of the 633,287 ballots returned in this race.
Secretary of State
Tina Peters: 180,036 votes, or 28.86%
Mike O’Donnell: 175,136 votes, or 28.08%
Pam Anderson: 268,614, or 46.06%
Anderson beat Peters by 88,578 votes, or 17.2% of the 623,786 ballots returned in this race.
Ron Hanks: 288,464 votes, or 45.54%
Joe O’Dea: 345,024, or 54.46%.
O’Dea won by 56,560 votes, or 8.92% of the 633,488 ballots returned in this race.
The margin of victory in each of these races, was far below the projected 30% Unaffiliated Voter participation.
Let’s take a look at a few of the mailers that were sent out to Unaffiliated and Republican voters.
Notice the “Union Bug” on some of these mailers, indicating they came from a Union-shop, which are primarily used by Democrats. (To view the mailers, visit the original article at Freestatecolorado.com)
Many of the mailers were targeting Grassroots Republicans as “too extreme.”
Now that we’ve dug into what happened in June, the question remains, what does it mean?
How will the Primary affect November’s Election?
Nationally, the 2022 General Election is projected to be a Red Wave.
Democrats are polling poorly.
Gas prices, crime and inflation are all skyrocketing.
Americans have an opportunity to hold accountable the politicians who locked them in their homes, shut down their churches, and told them they weren’t essential.
November’s Red Wave could shift the US Congress, US Senate, and State Governments across the country.
But much of November’s results will depend on the Republican candidates facing Democrat incumbents.
The Primary determined who these candidates will be, but Colorado’s April GOP Assembly set the initial slate of potential November winners.
At the Convention, Grassroots candidates won overwhelmingly.
Ron Hanks, Greg Lopez, Tina Peters emerged victorious.
And in County Assemblies across the State, grassroots candidates such as Lori Saine, and Austin Hein, won overwhelmingly.
However, Big Money and Unaffiliated Voters produced the opposite results in the June Primary.
Establishment candidates supported with Big Money spent by Colorado Republican organizations, and Washington DC based organizations won big.
Not only that, but Democratic organizations also played an outsized role in influencing the Republican Primary.
What this means in Colorado, is that:
- A Pro-Abortion, Pro-Big Government, Pro-War, Hickenlooper and Bennet donor is the Republican candidate for US Senate.
- A former career bureaucrat who pushed universal mail-in ballots, and current Director of Facebook & Google funded Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) is now the candidate for Secretary of State. (Zuckerberg poured $350 million into CTCL to prior to the 2020 election helping Democrats win across the country).
- Establishment-endorsed candidates are the nominees Congressional Districts 7 and 8. (Two of the most competitive seats in the state)
- And in House and Senate races across Colorado, Liberty Republicans won’t be facing Democrats in November.
This is is the best year for Republicans in over a decade, and their candidates are nearly indistinguishable from their Democrat opponents.
I would go so far as to say that no matter who wins in November, the Authoritarian Political Class won’t lose power.
What does this mean for Future Elections?
This year’s Primary showed the extent that Unaffiliated Voters can sway Elections in Colorado.
The Establishment knows this, and they spent big to support their candidates.
Outside Groups influencing Unaffiliated Voters is a winning formula.
Most of the spending this year came from Democrat-affiliated groups with at least a $5.9 million effort to influence the Republican Primary.
The next biggest spenders were Establishment Republicans whose nearly $1.9 million helped their candidates emerge victorious.
This means Republicans, if they want to win a Primary, must appeal to Unaffiliated Voters.
Not only that, but the Republican Candidates who went through the Assembly process lost to those who paid to get on the Primary ballot, and then paid to win the Primary.
Apparently, being marketed as the moderate candidate, and marketing your opponent as extreme is a winning strategy.
Campaigning has changed in Colorado since the 2016 adoption of Open Primaries.
Those who adapt to the changing political environment have a chance to win, but those who don’t, will surely lose.
Liberty Republicans must recognize the power of Unaffiliated Voters, and the power of outside spending.
Only appealing to Republicans will not get you past the Primary.
Adapting your messaging to appeal to Unaffiliated Voters is a potentially winning strategy.
What can the Liberty Community learn from the June 2022 Primary?
From a Liberty perspective, it is dismaying to see the Grassroots candidates lose to the Establishment.
However, there is an opportunity.
The Republican and Democratic Parties are losing influence.
Right now, Grassroots Republicans are looking for an avenue to vote this election.
Grassroots candidates and voters can find a home in Colorado’s Third Parties.
The Libertarian Party of Colorado is the third largest, and it’s possible their role will only grow in Colorado Politics.
After all, why should Liberty Republicans stay in a party that doesn’t represent them?
However, in general, political parties seem to be facing irrelevancy.
Aside from ballot access, what value do political parties provide their candidates?
Money isn’t coming from the party, it’s coming from outside organizations.
Influence isn’t coming from the party, candidacies are bought by the highest bidder.
What this might mean is a reorganization of electioneering efforts around single-issue and special interest groups.
Make no mistake, organization is necessary, and the best organized usually win.
How to organize political movements outside of a political party is a very important question that Liberty individuals should be asking.
The Liberty Community must also remember, Unaffiliated Voters and Outside Groups rule Colorado Elections.
So, find a way to appeal to the Unaffiliated.
And utilize Outside Groups in support of your candidates, and against your opponents.
Another key to having influence is staying up-to-date on recent election efforts.
Learn from your enemies, and adapt each year.
Watch who wins and try to figure out why.
Politics is a game, and someone is winning, so why not you?
But you can only win if you understand how to play the game.
Winning means a Future of Liberty.
But more players are needed.
Smart, creative players, whose hard work will pay off if they play the game right.
Will you join the effort?
RMGO thanks Brandon Wark for his in-depth analysis of a serious issue for Coloradans. The open primary system will continue to be a plague on our elections until it has been addressed. To join Free State Colorado and receive regular updates on the battle for Liberty, click here.