William F. Buckley, writing years ago about Robert Welch and the John Birch Society, who were pushing the ridiculous theory that communists had penetrated American government to such an extent that President Eisenhower himself was a high-placed agent of the Soviet Union, said that “the mischievous unreality” of Welch’s charges “placed a great weight on the back of responsible conservatives.” The same could be said today of Trump’s claims of a stolen election.
Which is why this Tuesday was such a beneficial night for the Colorado Republican Party. The so-called “establishment” candidates (as an aside, how did “establishment” ever come be disassociated with “conservative?”) won pretty much across the board in the Republican primaries. It was a triumph of sanity and reason over Bircher-esque conspiracy. This means that the GOP in Colorado not only has the best chance of making electoral gains that they have in decades, but that they can now take advantage of it.
The victories at the top of the ticket — Joe O’Dea for U.S. Senate, Heidi Ganahl for Governor, and Pamela Anderson for Secretary of State — are of course good news in that those three candidates pose a credible threat to the Democratic incumbents. But it’s also, at the least, good news for the Republican down-ballot candidates. Had any one of those three seats gone to the election-conspiracy candidate, the constant recitation of the mistaken tenets would have served to anathematize much of the Republican ticket, including those not buying the claims, especially in critical swing districts.
Ganahl, O’Dea, and Anderson join John Kellner and Lang Sias, running for Attorney General and Treasurer respectively, at the top the ballot, marking the most impressive conservative lineup in quite some time. At the state level, Sen. Paul Lundeen survived a challenge in the ever-quarrelsome El Paso County, and House Minority Leader Hugh McKean and Rep. Colin Larson both prevailed over Rocky Mountain Gun Owners-backed insurgencies. A number of new state candidates also overcame similar challenges from the fringe, including Rose Pugliese in Colroado Springs, one of Colorado’s most promising emerging conservative leaders.
They are joined on the federal level by State Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer (running for the brand-new 8th Congressional District) and incumbents Doug Lamborn (who looks to adopt a more prominent position on the powerful Armed Services Committee should, as expected, the Republicans flip the House) and Ken Buck, who staved off an unexpectedly strong challenge, incredibly, from the right.
Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, of course, staved off a primary from the more moderate State Sen. Don Coram; a man whom I much respect, but who did land now and then on what even many mainstream conservatives would have considered the wrong side of prominent issues. Boebert’s celebrity status among the right and frequent media attention pretty much guaranteed her victory early on, and given the ideological alignment of the district, more than inoculates her from any serious Democratic bid for the seat.
There are other stories from the primary election, deeper than the headlines of who won and lost. Notably, there is the fact that especially the top-three primary victors (O’Dea, Ganahl and Anderson) seem at this point to have outperformed their polling by roughly 6%; beyond the perennial questions of polling accuracy, this indicates that the all-important unaffiliateds turned out, which is promising for the Republicans in the fall. It also indicates that the millions of dollars the Democrats spent on questionably-legal interference in the Republican primaries did not work out very well for them.
Another interesting trend is that while Republicans are settling back into their traditional realms of reality and prudence, it seems the Democratic Party is tacking further left. There weren’t all that many Democratic primaries going on, which skews analysis, but in the few that did take place the more extreme progressive candidate won. The only possible exception is the HD-6 race between Katie March and Elizabeth Epps, which at the time of writing this March is leading by a handful of votes.
That could be a critical factor in November. It is also interesting to see that in several districts where the eventual Democratic nominee is expected to ultimately win, the turn-out numbers between Republicans and Democrats were astonishingly close. For instance, in HD-17, currently Tony Exum’s seat, the two Democratic contenders combined received about 3,700 votes, compared to about 3,400 for Republican Rachel Stoval, who was unopposed (Regina English, the further left candidate won that primary). Perry Will got 7,300 votes vs. 7,500 combined to the two Democratic contenders, in a seat widely believed to be a hand-over to the Democratic Party.
This is a potentially phenomenal year for Republicans, and President Joe Biden is not giving the Democrats much to work with. Colorado’s Republicans, having given the nod to reasonable, prudent, traditional conservatives, now have no excuse to not win and right the ship of state.
Kelly Sloan is a political and public affairs consultant and a recovering journalist based in Denver.