Heidi Ganahl, GOP candidate for Governor, would restrict abortion, expand charter schools and get oil and gas ‘back to work`

Listen Now
38min 22sec
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
University of Colorado Regent, Republican Heidi Ganahl, announces her candidacy for governor outside Rosie’s Diner in Monument, near Colorado Springs, on Tuesday, September 14, 2021.

Listen or read Colorado Matters' interview with fellow GOP candidate for governor, Greg Lopez, here.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl says she wants to ease soaring gas prices with increased energy production in Colorado and maintains she can eliminate the state’s income tax, largely by shrinking bureaucracy and cutting red tape.

Ganahl will face former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez in the June 28 Republican gubernatorial primary. She says the voters she has met on the campaign trail tell her issues, like rising gas prices and inflation, along with a mental health crisis that has left Colorado with one of the nation’s highest suicide rates, are their among their biggest concerns. 

In a wide-ranging interview with Colorado Matters senior host Ryan Warner, Ganahl spoke about abortion and gun control, as well. 

She said the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade and leave decisions about abortion to the states. She would allow abortion in cases of rape, incest and the health of the mother or fetus. She opposes a new state law that cements the right to abortion care in Colorado.

Asked about mass shootings around the country, she called for increased presence of school safety officers and improved mental health services. On whether the age for ownership of AR-15s should be raised, she cited the need to protect Second Amendment rights.

Pointing to her experience as a business owner and her current role as the only Republican to hold statewide office, Ganahl said she was suited to deal with those problems. She is the founder of the Camp Bow Wow dog care franchise, which she sold in 2014, and she currently serves on the University of Colorado Board of Regents.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Ryan Warner: Heidi, thank you for being with us.

Heidi Ganahl: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Warner: Give us the elevator pitch: Why does your voice matter in this race?

Ganahl: First and foremost, I'm a mom. I have four kids: twin 10-year-olds, a 12-year-old and a 26-year-old. I've been on the front lines of education reform, starting charter schools and being a regent at the University of Colorado. 

I'm also a small business owner. I founded Camp Bow Wow, the country's largest pet-care franchise back in 2000 until late 2014, when I sold it to VCA, the veterinary chain. I stayed on as CEO for a couple of years before I ran for regent in 2016.

Warner: What does that business experience tell us about you?

Ganahl: I care passionately about the American dream and opportunity, making sure that our kids and grandkids have the same opportunity that I did. I came from a family that had little money, but lots of love and inspiration and encouraged me to go do big things. And I'm really worried about what's happening on that front now.

Warner: Give me an example of a block to opportunity in Colorado?

Ganahl: I'll give you an example that launched me into politics. When I was growing Camp Bow Wow, one of the regulatory agencies that oversaw kennels and dog daycare facilities was the Department of Agriculture and the Pet Care Facilities Act. 

They came in to do their inspection and they said, ‘By the way, you've got to change the number of people you have in the dog play yards.’ We had probably 50 or 60 camps around the country at this point; dog daycare, boarding, grooming, training. They said, ‘We think you need more staff in the facility in order to watch the dogs.’ And I said, ‘We've got a well-thought-out formula that we've been keeping the dogs safe. Our customers love it.’ And the inspector said, ‘Sorry, that's too bad. We think it should be different: One [person] to 15 [dogs], instead of one [person] to 25 [dogs].’

What that did was require a lot more staff at the Colorado franchise locations. It reduced their profitability dramatically and their ability to pay people more, and to hire more folks and give them opportunities. And I thought, How does this person who's not even elected and doesn't know our business well get to come in and tell us how we do our business?’

Warner: Were the dogs safer?

Ganahl: Afterwards or before?

Warner: Afterwards?

Ganahl: No. Our safety record was still outstanding, but we did a good job before that rule came into play.

Warner: Let's talk about an issue that is top of mind right now: abortion. You've said you are an abortion-rights opponent. What does that mean in terms of if and when you think abortions should be allowed?

Ganahl: I am pro-life with exceptions for rape, incest, health of the mother and health of the fetus.

Warner: Why are those exceptions important to you?

Ganahl: I've been a huge advocate for women, whether it was my launch of Moms Fight Back, my nonprofit I started in 2013 to help moms with tough issues their kids are facing, and then with SheFactor, the business that I started with my daughter in 2019.

I support young women in living a life of opportunity and creating lives that they love and helping them through difficult things they face. Those situations that I named are really, really tough, difficult situations that I would like them to have the opportunity to make the decision for themselves with their doctors.

Warner: Outside of that though, aren't there any number of tough issues women face who may not be able to have an abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned?

Ganahl: Well, I believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned because of its ability to hand the decision back to the states. What I don't agree with is the bill that just passed this last [Colorado legislative] session that makes it okay to have an abortion up until birth. I don't think that's aligned with what the people in Colorado want.

Editor’s note: The new law, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, cements the legal right to abortion and contraceptive medicines in state law and defines embryos, fertilized eggs and fetuses as lacking any standing under state law. It forbids public entities in Colorado from restricting access to contraceptives or an abortion, and bars state health insurance from paying for an abortion unless a patient’s life is at risk. Other than that, there are no waiting periods or restrictions. Colorado has long been one of few states that allows the procedure at any point in pregnancy.

Warner: But the notion that someone would have an abortion close to birth is infinitesimal.

Ganahl: I don't think it's as rare as some folks like to portray. The people of Colorado –  I don't believe they're okay with this extreme of an abortion law. I do think that Roe v. Wade should be overturned to honor states’ rights, and the people of Colorado should speak. I'll represent the people of Colorado on that issue.

Warner: Would you push as governor for a law that restricted abortion with the exceptions you've laid out? Would that be a priority for you?

Ganahl: Well, I certainly don't agree with the law as it stands right now, and would have a conversation with the people of Colorado and see where we land and see where the legislature lands. It has to be something put to me on my desk by the legislature.

Warner: We spoke to some Republican voters recently and heard a lot about the cost of living. Brad Michael of Castle Rock said, “I would ask the candidates what they would do to address the problem of inflation and how it affects every Coloradan.”

Ganahl: Boy, that's all I hear about right now out on the campaign trail. Actually, a couple of things – price of gas, inflation, cost of living and also mental health is a huge issue, which we can talk about in a minute. As much as our leadership tries to say that things are okay right now, that's not what I'm hearing on the ground from small-business owners and the gentleman that you spoke about.

First and foremost, I believe we need to have an all-of-the-above energy approach and get our oil and gas industry back to work. We produce some of the cleanest energy on the planet right here in Colorado with some of the strictest regulations, so if we need to produce oil and gas, we should do it right here in Colorado where we know we are taking care of the environment and being good stewards. Honestly, energy independence has never been more important watching what's happening in Ukraine.

Warner: It's hard to call oil and gas clean when it contributes to climate change.

Ganahl: I think we all care about clean air, land and water, and if we have the strictest regulations for producing it and we need it to live our lives. It affects the poorest in our economy right now; If they can't afford to drive to work or drive to their childcare facility, drive to see their parents in a nursing home. These are the day-to-day issues that folks are facing. We are not ready to go all-renewable right now.

Warner: You've heard over and over again that people are concerned about the price of gas. And your answer to that is, let's get more reliant on this thing whose price fluctuates?

Ganahl: I believe we should have an all-of-the-above approach. I think it's too far, too fast to stop energy production in Colorado and I think the steps that have been taken that have decimated our energy industry here are not appropriate for our state, for our smaller communities, and honestly, for the people of Colorado. I hear loud and clear that they are not okay with what's happening to the energy industry here.

Warner: It is a global commodity, though. The price of oil and gas is dependent upon more than what happens in Colorado. Would you say that's true?

Ganahl: I agree, but I don't think it's an either/or. I think it's an and/both.

Warner: Tell me what else you've been hearing about inflation. You said the price of gas. What else?

Ganahl: We just traveled 19 counties in six days across the Western Slope, and I heard loud and clear that affordable housing is a huge issue, whether it's finding employees or just being able to live their lives. The folks that have lived in these small towns for a long time and can't afford the property taxes, can't afford the rising cost of living in those small towns.

One-fourth of the cost of new housing is due to regulations, fees and permits, so that's a way that I can help being governor: by leading a charge to reduce those and make it more enticing for developers to produce affordable housing in these smaller markets, but also in the Denver metro area.

Editor’s note: A 2021 report by the National Homebuilders Association placed the average national price of a new home at $394,000, with $93,870 of that spent to comply with regulations during development and construction phases.

Warner: Do you have a sense of what specifically you would remove in terms of those costs or that regulation?

Ganahl: Well, let's look at the Marshall fire and what happened up there. I moved out of Superior, down to Douglas County, a few years ago. I used to live in Rock Creek, which was affected. A dear friend of mine lost her house in the Marshall fire in Spanish Hills. The cost to rebuild is so much more expensive because of the new building codes. I get they have great intentions: they're very green, they want people developing houses that will last into the future and be good for our environment.

Warner: And won't burn down again.

Ganahl: Right, yes. But it's not OK if they can't afford to rebuild and right now people that lost their homes are really struggling in Superior, Louisville, Boulder County, and a lot of them can't rebuild. They're either under-insured or they can't afford the new prices for building again. That's an example of a way that we can take pause and think maybe we're going too far, too fast and we can be more conservative about our approach.

Warner: You have called for two big changes in state finances. You promised to eliminate the state income tax, which you would phase out during your four-year term, and you vowed to cut the state gas tax in half. You've said you can do that and still build roads and provide other services. The state income tax brings in about $9 billion a year, and the gas tax raises $600 million a year. What would you cut to make up for that loss of revenue?

Ganahl: The state budget has doubled in the last decade to $36 billion. The size of our government has grown by almost 25 percent in [Gov. Polis’] term, adding over 4,000 full-time employees to the agencies. 

Government has grown too much. I think one of the most important things we can do is reduce the size of our bureaucracies, our agencies, and put decision-making over people's lives, businesses and families back in the hands of Coloradans. I think that we can attack fraud and waste and also look at the return on investment in the dollars that we are spending. A lot of folks talk about zero-based budgeting and I'm not saying that we should go there, but we can certainly take that approach and say, ‘What do we need to get done through our state government? What do we need to provide as far as services and care for the people of Colorado?’ and then back it out and see if there are ways that we could cut the spending.

Editor’s note: The state’s budget has almost – but not quite – doubled over the last decade. The 2011-12 budget was $19.75 billion, including all funds. The 2021-22 budget is $36.6 billion, a 185 percent increase. A similar trend holds up when looking at general funds only.

As for Polis’ term, the overall budget from 2017-18, the year before he took office, was $28.8 billion, it’s now $36.6 billion. That’s about a quarter. The state’s general fund, or operating budget, has also grown by more than 25 percent. 

While the state’s payroll has grown by roughly 4,000 people, that is not a 25 percent increase. The state has more than 60,000 employees.

Warner: “Government has grown too much,” you say. Give me an example.

Ganahl: Yes. Well, I think if you talk to the moms and dads that dealt with the quarantines and mandates that came down from the public health departments through COVID, many are very uncomfortable with the power that [those] departments and those agencies had.

Warner: I mean economically. Where has the government grown too much that you think it's eating up people's dollars?

Ganahl: I believe the transportation department has become overreaching, and it's doing more urban planning and development and more oversight over small business owners, which I don't think is the appropriate role for that department. 

I believe that small business owners are being suffocated right now by lots of regulations and taxes. Take the bag fee, the delivery fee. The delivery fee just came through: it's 27 cents additional to deliver someone food. I don't think the restaurant owners knew that was coming. Obviously, our family has some barbecue restaurants and we're pretty involved in that industry, and it was a shocker. It was done through the transportation bill, actually, and those fees get passed on to customers. Right now our customers, the people of Colorado, need to be able to afford to buy groceries and buy gas and get housing, and anything that we can do to reduce fees and taxes and regulations so that prices go down is going to be my priority.

Warner: I hear you talking about growth and oversight and regulation. I don't hear where you would get $9 billion and another $600 million in savings.

Ganahl: It's reducing waste, reducing the size of government, the agencies, the spending that we're doing right now — those 4,000 full-time employees that were added. It's eliminating any pork or pet projects in the budget right now. It's also competitive bidding, and making sure that when we build roads and create projects that we have to pay for through our state government funding, we're making sure we're getting the best prices. It's also cutting loopholes and corporate favors and then moving TABOR refunds to income-tax reductions and doing that in a permanent way so that we can slowly reduce the income tax over time. 

This isn't something that's going to happen on day one. It's going to take time to do this. But if you look at the other states that have done this, they attract tremendous amounts of business, far more than states without zero income tax. And that tends to make up for a lot of the revenue lost.

Warner: Just to name a few of the areas the government has grown: transportation, behavioral health, new preschool and free kindergarten programs. You've invoked transportation, but in terms of the mental health investments and the expansion of early childhood education, do you agree that spending should have increased in those areas?

Ganahl: I have been doing tons of meetings and tours and trying to figure out how we fix our broken mental health system in Colorado. There are so many good-intentioned people and organizations trying to fix this, but right now we have one of the highest suicide rates for children in our country. It is broken. 

It's very complicated. It's something we have to do through our schools, through our families, through the mental health system. Right now, it takes four or five months for a child to get in for an introductory appointment. I talked to one of the heads of Children's Hospital and they said they have never seen numbers like this. Honestly there's a couple things that are high priority: No. 1 is getting more workers here in the mental health space; They have a huge shortage. 

Warner: How would you do that?

Ganahl: Well, you can incentivize folks. As a regent at the University of Colorado, I can create more programs and certificates and avenues for folks to get the ability to help that way, especially in rural Colorado. Also, accessibility to mental health [care] is a huge thing that I'm hearing right now. It's very difficult, it's not affordable, even with your insurance. So lots of things to fix on that front and I'm working —

Warner: I hear you describing a problem that has been well-described and I would love to hear more about how you get there while you're shrinking, presumably, state funding.

Ganahl: I don't think we need to spend more money, per se, on the mental health issue. I think it's very siloed and segmented right now. There's not a lot of efficiency, there's not a lot of collaboration. That’s how I approach things as a CEO and a business leader: bring people together and talk about how we work together. That's something that's happening a lot in education, specifically higher education where we've got lots of different nursing programs competing with each other, when we need to work together to make sure that we're not duplicating efforts. I think that's happening in mental health care, also. Then you look at the homelessness issue: That plays into the mental health conversation, as well.

Warner: That's a tough one. Do you want to share an idea you have towards combating homelessness?

Ganahl: Well, we've got to have compassion. This is a really tough issue and there are folks going through really difficult times right now. But, I also think we have to have some tough love and clean up our streets. Right now, small businesses are shuttering in Denver, people aren't going to Rockies games or going out to dinner in Denver because of the homelessness issue and the tents, the needles, etcetera. What can we do to have those folks go to shelters, instead? There are a lot of organizations ready and willing to help. 

And then getting tough on fentanyl and drugs. My dad was a police officer; I'm a law and order girl. From talking to law enforcement in our state, we've got to get back to keeping bad guys in jail and getting them off the streets and keeping them in jail if they're going to repeat offend.

Warner: Betty Bullard, a listener from Colorado Springs, submitted a question about fentanyl. She said, “What kind of plans do you have to try to get this under control? What do you think will work? It's not under control. What are you going to do to get it under control: To work with the legislature and come up with something that will work?”

Heidi, let me just add that the legislature did pass fentanyl legislation in the last session. Did it go far enough?

Ganahl: No. In fact, it made things worse, according to the law enforcement officials I'm talking to. Because it makes it more difficult to prosecute dealers and distributors of fentanyl. Also I think we should have zero tolerance for fentanyl possession. It's so dangerous to our community, to our state, to our families.

One of the most impactful moments on the campaign trail was when I was at an event and a mom came up to me, put in my hand a little wood ornament with a picture of her daughter, who was probably 15 or 16, and said, ‘This is my daughter. She was having a bad day. A friend of hers gave her a Xanax and it was laced with fentanyl and she died that day.’ It had just been a few months before that. I'm hearing those stories over and over again.

Editor’s note: The bill includes a defense for people who don’t “knowingly” possess the drug. But they can only use that defense if they go to trial, and it can only be used to downgrade the felony conviction to a misdemeanor — not to beat the charge altogether. 

Warner: But wouldn't her daughter have been prosecuted under your zero tolerance policy? There are a lot of people who have fentanyl who don't know that they possess it.

Ganahl: No. There's the ability to have common sense, but also the ability to be tough, and our law enforcement doesn't want to put 16-year-olds or their friends in jail. They want to put the guys that are on the street dealing drugs in jail and they're having a very difficult time doing that. We've got to back our law enforcement, we've got to back the ability for them to have some tough love for some of these folks on the streets that may not have bad intentions. But it's flowing into our schools and communities, whether they like it or not.

Warner: On the subject of crime, what do you think can be done to reduce the number of mass shootings?

Ganahl: Oh, it's heartbreaking. I can't stand watching one more TV program highlighting another shooting. It's terrible. And it goes deep, right? This isn't an easy fix. We've got to look at the cultural underpinnings: what's happening to society around mental health and why these people feel the need to do this and get attention this way. We need to have a serious conversation about how to keep our kids safe when they're at school, or if you're at the grocery store or at a concert. That may mean taking some tougher measures on hardening up our facilities and making sure that we have [school resource officers, or SROs,] in schools. I don't think it was appropriate to take SROs out of schools. It means preventing gun violence, but respecting rights and respecting the Second Amendment rights.

Warner: You've floated a few ideas there. One is that you want to bring school resource officers back. In Uvalde, TX, we saw 13 police officers in the school, having responded to the shooting there, and it didn't do anything. Is that really a solution?

Ganahl: Well, what I know from being on Gov. Hickenlooper’s School Safety and Youth in Crisis Committee, is that school resource officers aren't just police officers that stand in the building; They build relationships with those kids. They have an eye and ear to the ground about what's happening in the school and which kids are having trouble and struggling. I think we probably had 50 different school resource officers talk to us on that committee and it really just warmed my heart, the relationship that they had with those kids.

What happened in Texas was terrible. That is not what we learned from Columbine and some of the other shootings: You've got to go in right away and deal with it. We also learned that on the school safety committee. But one of the most important things I learned from that committee, and why I created a school safety pilot program, was that every school is different and we have to go in and assess each school. It could be a cultural problem, it could be a facility problem, it could be a training problem. We can't just pick one solution to affect all schools.

Warner: On the subject of school resource officers, children of color receive that police presence in a very different way, often, than white students. There’s a big concern about the school-to-prison pipeline and that putting more law enforcement in school criminalizes childlike behavior. Is that a concern of yours?

Ganahl: From the conversations that I had on the school safety committee and with parents who have lost children or been involved in schools that have school shootings: that is not the message I hear. They are terrified, they want more protection, they want more policing and more support. And they want attention paid to this issue for more than a couple days after a shooting. 

We've got to keep this conversation alive, so I've created a five-point plan that I will institute as governor. One of those things is an accountability dashboard. One for the schools in the district, so that parents know what they're up against and what's happening in the schools. Right now, that's not very transparent.

Warner: Do you mean in terms of security, or in terms of behavioral health?

Ganahl: Like incidents, violent incidents — things that are happening in the school that parents would want to know about related to crime and disruptions and any trends that are going on. A dad in Parkland who lost his son at the Parkland shooting started this in Florida. It's a desire for transparency so we know what we're dealing with, because you can't manage what you don't measure. 

On the flip side, as governor I've got to be accountable and transparent with the people of Colorado. This has to be one of my top issues: making sure our kids are safe. So, I'm going to talk about it once a month in a press conference. I'm going to have specific metrics that I will track to make sure we're moving the needle. We'll talk about the funding that we're providing, the programs that we're implementing and the ways that we are going to make this a top priority and keep our kids safe at school.

Warner: You mentioned guns and the Second Amendment. As we sit here today recording this, Congress is considering a package of bills to reduce mass shootings. Among other things, it would encourage states to adopt red flag gun laws. Colorado already has a law like that: With a judge's approval, firearms can be temporarily removed from people who are a threat to themselves or others. Do you think Colorado's red flag law should remain on the books?

Ganahl: I do have a question about the constitutionality of it and I do think there's room for some shenanigans that can go on with that law, like if people are falsely accusing someone of having issues that they shouldn't have a gun. We have to be very careful about Second Amendment rights. 

Warner: Do you have evidence of “shenanigans” or is that just a fear you have?

Ganahl: I've heard stories. Yeah, it's one of our conversations.

Warner: But that's why a judge is involved, right? A judge would get involved if there are “shenanigans.”

Ganahl: Hopefully. Yes. I think that it's a bigger issue about what we are going to do to make sure that gun rights are preserved, but we also are being safe and keeping weapons out of the hands of mentally ill folks. 

Warner: Those with mental illness are much more likely to be violent against themselves if they're violent at all. I think there are some who would hear that and say you’re scapegoating people with mental illness in talking about mass shootings when the problem is that an 18-year-old can go in with an AR-15 and do a lot of damage in a little bit of time. How would you answer that?

Ganahl: To your point, most of the damage done is to themselves, if a person is having mental health issues. That goes to the rising suicide rates that we have in this country and something that we have to address here in Colorado, especially around our kids. Again, this is a bigger issue. It's about mental health; It's about connection; It's about isolation; It's about what's happening in society overall. And I don't think COVID helped that. That’s nobody's fault. It's just a tragedy that's come in the last couple years.

Warner: Is it about the AR-15 and being in the hands of young people?

Ganahl: Well, folks have been able to buy long guns for a very, very long time — even 18-year-olds — and this is a burgeoning issue so I don’t —

Warner: Would you put an age limit on certain guns? Beyond the ones that exist already, as you've acknowledged.

Ganahl: Yeah. I'd have to consider that. I think it's more an issue of society and what's happening. Again, we've got to be really careful about protecting Second Amendment rights in this country.

Warner: Several Republican voters we spoke to believe strongly in school choice. Are there options parents don't have today in Colorado that you would like them to have if you were elected governor?

Ganahl:  Absolutely. Sixty percent of our kids in Colorado can't read, write or do math at grade level right now. And I'm sure you saw the report that came out of Denver Public Schools that five percent of African American and Hispanic kids can read at grade level. That is a tragedy and that should not be happening in Colorado or anywhere in this country, so we've got to do whatever we can to fix this problem. We've got wonderful teachers. We've got some funding issues. The way education finance works in our state is wonky, at best.

Warner: Some of it is locked into the state constitution, by the way.

Ganahl: I think the most important thing we can do is give power back to parents to make good decisions for each child. I have four kids: They each learn very differently and one of them has dyslexia and we could not get the help we needed in the public schools.I did have the ability to get tutoring and put her in a different situation that was better for her, and she's thriving. I want every parent to have that opportunity and be able to have access to funding, to do different things for their children if they need to.

Warner: Charter schools, vouchers — what would the Ganahl Administration bring in?

Ganahl: I've been a huge advocate of charter schools. I was on the founding board of Golden View Classical Academy, I helped launch Ascent Classical and I tried to open one up in Boulder Valley School District. It wasn't successful, even though we had 700 kids signed up for that school. So I think charters are a very important part of the conversation and we need to make it much easier to start charter schools in this state.

Warner: Do you think they're held accountable enough when they don't succeed?

Ganahl: Oh goodness, yes. I mean, people are going to walk with their feet. If someone puts their child in a charter school, they're being very selective and intentional about where they want their student to go to school. They're going to be the first ones to leave that school if they're not doing the right things for the kids.

Warner: Last year, as CU regent, you sponsored a resolution that would have banned discriminatory or prejudicial attitudes at CU: “that an individual because of their own race or gender is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” Now, this measure failed, but reading the language of it made me wonder if in the wake of George Floyd's murder, you, Heidi Ganahl, have done any thinking about your own unconscious biases or racism.

Ganahl: Absolutely. That's a huge conversation at the University of Colorado and in my role in education. 

Warner: What epiphanies have you had, personally?

Ganahl: My epiphany is that Martin Luther King [Jr.] was a really smart guy and I honor his words and that's what I was trying to do in that resolution: that we should judge people on their character and not the color of their skin.

Warner: What would you say to folks who think that the resolution was a way of shutting down the conversation that Martin Luther King Jr. wanted the country to have, though?

Ganahl: I would say it's the exact opposite. I was encouraging the conversation and making sure that we're making good decisions for our students and our faculty at CU.

Warner: So, there is no aspect that was meant to shut down discussions of race?

Ganahl: Absolutely not.

Warner: I'd like to talk a little bit about elections and votes. First off, do you believe Joe Biden was duly elected the president of the United States? I ask this because some Republican voters still dispute that.

Ganahl: Joe Biden is our president and Jared Polis is our governor. But, here's the question that I think we need to be asking: why do so many people feel uncomfortable about that election? Why are so many people unsure that their vote matters?

Warner: Well, because they had a former president who kept saying it over and over and over again, despite it not being true.

Ganahl: But, so did Stacey Abrams and so did a lot of Democrats for four years saying, ‘Russia, Russia, Russia, and Trump is not legitimate.’ There is a lack of voter confidence on both sides, depending on who wins the election. Voting is one of the most important pieces keeping our country together, so whatever I can do as a leader to provide transparency and reassurance and help people understand the process so we can get back to feeling confident that our vote matters, that is what I will do.

Warner: Now, you've made a comparison there between Russian interference in the election and President Trump's false claims of election fraud. Our own intelligence agencies told us there was Russian meddling. That's true. The claims of election fraud from Mr. Trump are not true, court after court after court and his own people have disputed it. That feels like an unfair comparison to me.

Ganahl: So, I think it's both sides and this is how we get into trouble and why people don't trust the media right now, because it's important to listen to all sides of the conversation.

Editor's note: For the past 11 months, a committee of House representatives have been investigating the unsubstantiated claims of election fraud that President Trump made that led to the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection on the Capitol. The committee has been releasing their findings in a series of public hearings, which you can find here.

Warner: Russian meddling happened. Widespread election fraud did not. As a journalist, it's very important to me to say one of those things is a fact and one of those isn't.

Ganahl: What I'm concerned about is, how do we move forward? How do we move forward as a country and as a state? And in order to move forward, we have to understand that people on both sides feel uncomfortable about some aspects of our election.

Warner: So how do you answer that?

Ganahl: Transparency, transparency, transparency, and get people engaged in the process.

Warner: Is there enough transparency in Colorado?

Ganahl: No. Now granted, I wouldn't be running if I didn't think I could win, but we can always do better. We can always provide more transparency. We can always get people more engaged by being election judges, poll watchers, teaching them how it works. So this is not a conversation that's over. It's one that's just beginning. And my hope is to get to a point where we all feel really good about our elections again.

Warner: Was the January 6th, 2021 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol wrong?

Ganahl: It was a really bad day for our country, and those that broke the law should be prosecuted and those that were simply protesting should not.

Warner: Several Coloradans have been charged in connection with the events of that day. Some of those charges include impeding officers with a violent weapon and inflicting bodily injury. Do you think that they felt they were working at the behest of President Trump?

Ganahl: I can't speak to what they were thinking. I just think if somebody broke the law, then they should be prosecuted and if they were simply protesting, then not.

Warner: I want to ask about the former visiting professor of conservative thought at CU, John Eastman. While he was working at CU in late 2020 and early 2021, he served as a legal advisor to President Trump in attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election. A key lawyer for the U.S. House has called Eastman the central player in the development of a legal strategy to justify a coup. Eastman left CU a few weeks after the insurrection. 

Before the riot, you spoke of Eastman in a complimentary way on a conservative radio talk show. And just a few weeks ago on another radio program, you said you advocated against his firing, which is ultimately not how he left CU, by the way. Was it appropriate to have someone on the CU faculty who is leading Trump's efforts to overturn a legitimate election?

Ganahl: Well, I'm glad you brought this up so I can clear up a few things. First of all, I've never met Mr. Eastman. I've never talked to him. I was not involved in his hiring; We are not involved in their hiring, as regents. But I did support the Benson Center and I was saying that there were a lot of fantastic scholars that went through the Benson Center. He was collectively grouped into that.

Warner: Under the auspices of it.

Ganahl: Yes, yes. And this was in the fall before anything had happened. I do think it's unfortunate and it wasn't good for CU that he decided to represent or get involved in this stuff while he was representing the University of Colorado. That bothered me. But I also believe in academic freedom and I don't believe we can start firing people. It's just a very thin line, right? You have to be very careful about that. 

Warner: But let me drill in on a word you just used: “unfortunate.” Do you want to say a few more words about why it's “unfortunate”?

Ganahl: Well, when you decide to be a visiting scholar, to represent CU, you have to think through your actions outside of the university and how that will affect the university. So, as a regent, that bothered me.

Warner: Because you disagree with Eastman's relationship to Mr. Trump and overturning the election?

Ganahl: I would just say that people need to think about their actions outside of the university when they're representing us as a visiting scholar.

Warner: Do you disagree with his actions?

Ganahl: I think there was a lot that went on that was bad news for our country and for the University of Colorado being connected to it.

Warner: Did this ever reach a firing offense?

Ganahl: It was discussed and I advocated for academic freedom and letting it play out in the public.

Warner: Can you give us an example of achieving a compromise, solving a problem with someone whose views differed from your own, maybe as regent or in running your businesses?

Ganahl: I worked with [Democratic] Representative Meg Froelich on a bill called Julie's Law through my nonprofit Moms Fight Back to create training on domestic violence and child abuse for family courts and the advocates that work in the family court system. We worked on that for a couple years and came to a great resolution on it and got some legislation passed. I’m proud of that. 

And on the regent board — I know a lot of the news says that we have a pretty feisty relationship, but I actually consider the Democrat regents my friends and we have a good relationship. [We were] able to pass a resolution last fall to clarify that we did not want foreign bad actors donating or investing in the University of Colorado. And we passed that in a bipartisan way.

Warner: What are you reading now?

Ganahl: What am I reading now? I don't have a lot of time to read for fun, but I'm reading tons of policy papers and learning as much as I can about the issues that Colorado's facing around water and agriculture and homelessness and crime and the climate — all of it. I'm trying to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can so that I am ready to go on day one as the first woman governor of Colorado.

Warner: That's right. Colorado has never had a woman elected governor or to the U.S. Senate for that matter. 

You invoked climate there and it did make me want to ask: Where does human-caused climate change fall on your list of priorities?

Ganahl: I think we all want clean land, clean air and clean water, and the environment's extremely important to me. I have four children and hopefully I'll have grandchildren and a long line ahead of our family that I want to flourish here. So it's very important to me. And I think that there's a lot we can do better.

Warner: I hear that pivot when I ask about climate to clean air and clean water. Climate's a little different, right? It's not pollution necessarily that's making your drinking water foul; It is gas in the atmosphere that's making things hotter, drier and less livable. So I'm asking very specifically where human-caused climate change related to fossil fuel consumption falls on your priority list.

Ganahl: Man is involved in changing the climate, but it can't be at the cost of our livelihoods and the poorest in our society and by destroying our energy industry here in Colorado that produces some of the cleanest energy on the planet. We're going too far, too fast, and we've got to have some measured responses to this instead of destroying our economy in order to address it.

Warner: And yet, the economic effects of climate change hit the poor, disproportionately. As it gets hotter, folks who don't have air conditioning will suffer more. In other words, it's an economic issue either way.

Ganahl: It's got to have a balance. We've got to have balance.

Warner: Thank you so much for being with us.

Ganahl: Thank you for having me. I appreciate the conversation.