Democrats have controlled the governor’s office in Colorado for most of the last half-century, with only a single Republican among the six most recent administrations.
Greg Lopez and Heidi Ganahl hope to change that. They are the candidates in the Republican primary on June 28. The winner will go on to face Gov. Jared Polis in the general election this fall. Polis is trying for a second — and due to term limits, final — term.
Both candidates drew substantial support from the Republican base at the party’s assembly earlier this year. Ganahl holds a significant financial advantage, but both have built statewide networks over their years in politics and business.
Lopez, 58, is a former mayor of the fast-growing Douglas County suburb of Parker. He was elected to that job as a Democrat in 1992, when he was only 27 years old, and switched to Republican affiliation during the single term he served.
Lopez, now a Republican, also is former president of the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He also spent six years as the Colorado Director for the U.S. Small Business Administration.
A Texas native, Lopez is the son and grandson of field workers. He is a graduate of New Mexico State University and joined the U.S. Air Force at a young age. He and his wife, Lisa, moved to Colorado in 1989.
They currently live in the small town of Elizabeth. Lopez works in consulting for medical equipment as well as business leadership. He and his son, Michael, opened the Hideaway Lounge, a bar and restaurant in Aurora.
“Today, government feels they have the responsibility to tell us how to live our lives, how to raise our children, and what freedoms and liberties we’re entitled to,” he said at a recent debate.
Lopez has established himself to the right of competitor Heidi Ganahl on some issues, including abortion.
“No exceptions, no exceptions,” he said at a recent debate as a moderator asked him whether he would allow abortion in cases of rape, incest or for the life of the mother.
His campaign later said that he would support operations where a fetus is removed from the womb to protect the mother’s health, even if it leads to the fetus’ death outside the womb. His campaign said he supports a “culture of life.”
Lopez also said the state’s population is growing too fast, especially with its limited water supply.
“We need to slow things down,” he said of development. “Colorado is growing out of control.”
Lopez’s campaign website claims he will “eliminate or reduce” all fees paid by Colorado residents; encourage oil and gas drilling, along with renewables and other rural industries like farming; and crack down on crime.
Lopez has denied the results of the 2020 election, claiming in March that Donald Trump won, The Colorado Sun reported.
He previously ran for governor in 2018, coming in third in the Republican primary. This year, he won the strongest support of the gubernatorial candidates at the GOP assembly — taking about 34 percent of the delegates — but has significantly less money than competitor Ganahl.
In 1993, Lopez and his wife both pleaded guilty to charges of harassment after “a family argument escalated into domestic violence,” The Denver Post reported at the time. The couple were in their late 20s and Lisa Lopez was pregnant at the time.
“I had been drinking that evening. I’m not proud of that,” Greg Lopez said in a video he later recorded with his wife.
His wife has said that the incident was partially her fault and that she had struck Lopez.
Both said they had attended marriage counseling and described the incident as a single mistake in a marriage of more than 30 years. They have two adult children.
Heidi Ganahl, 55, refers to herself as the only Republican to win statewide office since 2014 in Colorado.
She is an “at large” regent for the University of Colorado system, meaning she represents the entire state. She was elected to the position in 2016, narrowly beating out an experienced Democratic competitor.
“What I tell people is, I want to control my life, not yours. And I trust you to make good decisions about your family, your business, your kids,” she recently told talk-show host Peter Boyles. “Because that’s kind of the Colorado way. We don’t come here to be told how to live our life by the government.”
Ganahl has pitched herself as one of the few Republican candidates who can succeed in Colorado, which has leaned increasingly Democratic for years.
Ganahl has a varied past in business, working in pharmaceutical sales, as a financial consultant and as the owner of a baby-bedding catalog. In 2000, she opened the first location of Camp Bow Wow, a pet care company that has spread across the country through franchising. She sold the business in 2014 and separated from it in 2017.
Ganahl is the mother of four children and today lives in Lone Tree with her current husband, Jason Ganahl. Her first husband, Bion Flammang, died in a plane crash in 1994. Originally from Orange County, California, Ganahl moved to Monument, Colo. at age 12. She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado Boulder and a master’s in healthcare administration from the University of Denver.
The Ganahls own the G-Que BBQ restaurant chain.
In the governor’s race, Ganahl has focused in part on law-and-order messages, claiming that criminal-justice reforms have brought “devastation” to Denver. She supports the idea of “truth in sentencing,” which would generally take away the ability of prison inmates to reduce their sentences through good behavior and other options.
Like other conservatives, Ganahl calls for reduced taxes and regulation for everything from restaurants to child care and housing. She would eliminate the state’s income tax while “cutting the gas tax in half and still fixing the roads,” she said at a recent debate. Colorado collects more than $9 billion annually in income taxes. Asked by a debate moderator how she would pay for the cut, she talked about taking the “boot off the neck” of small business.
She generally opposes abortion rights, saying she would roll back Colorado’s recent law that cements those rights — which would also require the approval of lawmakers. Unlike Lopez, Ganahl has said she would make exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother.
Ganahl has skirted around some reporters’ questions about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, saying it’s a “divisive” issue. Asked by Boyles, she said she had confidence in Colorado’s results, but avoided saying whether she trusts elections nationally.
“Joe Biden’s our president, whether we like it or not. And we've got to work hard to change that in ‘24. As a candidate for governor, I can’t speak for the election integrity of other states, but I can speak for Colorado, and I would not be running if I didn’t think I could win here,” she told the talk-show host.
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