Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl wants to reduce regulation amid inflation and eliminate the state income tax

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36min 06sec
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Republican candidate for governor Heidi Ganahl at the CPR studios in Denver, Sept. 29, 2022.

Republican Heidi Ganahl is looking to upset incumbent Democratic Gov. Jared Polis in the November election.

Ganahl, an at-large member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, is the only Republican currently holding statewide office in Colorado. An entrepreneur, she founded the Camp Bow Wow dog care franchise. Her family now owns BBQ restaurants

In an interview with Colorado Matters, Ganahl said she’d tackle inflation by reducing state regulation and improving the climate for small business. 

She promised to abolish the state’s 4.55 percent income tax, saying she could replace the $11 billion it generates by cutting a bloated state government. And she outlined her transportation plan, saying she’d ask voters to approve a list of specific construction programs aimed at reducing congestion.

Ganahl also defended her nominee for lieutenant governor, Navy veteran and business consultant Danny Moore. In a 2021 social media post, Moore called the 2020 election a “Democrat steal.” He has since retracted those remarks.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

Ryan Warner: Let's start with the wallet. Our reporters are hearing a lot this year from Coloradans worried about rising prices for some of the most basic goods. Here is Desiree Vigil. We spoke to her at a Walmart in Thornton.

Desiree Vigil: Not buying fast food anymore. Gas sparingly as needed only. Thinking about when I'm gonna make trips, right?

Warner: What is one step, if you are elected governor, that you'd pursue to help reduce inflation?

Heidi Ganahl: Inflation is terrible here in Colorado. I think that's tied to a lot of the red tape and regulations that have been put in place.

The governor has put in lots of new full-time employees and grown the size of government quite a bit which adds some stress to the economy and also just a lot of taxes and fees and new programs that small business owners are expected to follow or implement, that are difficult to navigate when you're trying to make it work right now with the stress of finding employees. 

Small business owners that I know want to pay their employees more. They want to find employees, which is challenging right now. The economy's putting the squeeze on, inflation is putting the squeeze on.

Warner: You've cited red tape and regulations which are kind of easy to point to as a generic bundle. Give me an example of something you would change as governor in that arena.

Ganahl: I think that we've got to give more freedom and leeway to small business owners to make decisions about how to best compensate their employees and take care of their business. 

As an example, there are some pretty aggressive programs that are being implemented for small business owners like the Family Leave Program, which they have great intentions. As a business owner and a CEO, I've always made sure family leave is a big part of what we offer employees, but to decide for the employer how that should be implemented, I'm not sure I would agree with that. 

Also, the unemployment insurance fraud that went on during COVID is hitting small business owners in their pocketbooks because their rates are going up a lot. When we got the COVID dollars, we didn't refill that fraud as much as we should have. And so rates are going to go up.

Also, property insurance is going up. The competition for space is going up, so rent is also very expensive right now for small business owners. The list goes on and on.

Warner: Family leave has not taken effect yet. So you're pointing to something that can't have influenced inflation yet?

Ganahl: Well it will and you asked how I would address inflation as governor. I can't undo that, but I would just want to be very transparent with business owners and work with them to figure out how to accommodate the law, but also to make sure that they can make it work financially and they're not going to have to reduce their number of employees or go out of business because of it.

I also think that the retail delivery fee was a huge hit on consumers but also on business owners; they're expected to pass that on or absorb it. That’s a lot of money when you add it up.

Warner: This is a fee that was just imposed on deliveries, the idea is to pay for infrastructure. You talked about the competition for business space. Aren't we seeing vast empty office space? That doesn't jibe with what I understand the market to be.

Ganahl: No, that's not at all what I'm hearing right now. It's very difficult to be able to afford space right now. Prices have gone up dramatically. There may be more open space, but …

Warner: There definitely is.

Ganahl: But it doesn't mean they're reducing the prices because they're paying higher property taxes, insurance fees and generally the rate of inflation is affecting the rate of rent and the ability to do business.

Warner: You talked about what employers pay employees. Do you disagree with Colorado's increasing minimum wage? Is that what you mean?

Ganahl: I don't even know that it's a hot topic right now. It's more about what you have to pay to get good people. The free markets are kind of ramping that up. 

We have restaurants and I own a couple other small businesses and the market says that we have to pay people a lot more. I think that happens naturally with the free market. When you're a small business owner you want the best employees, you want to compensate them well, and right now, it's very expensive.

Warner: There is one similarity between you and the man you wish to unseat, Jared Polis. You both wish to eliminate the state income tax. It is a huge source of revenue for Colorado, about $11 billion a year. Where would you cut government spending? You mentioned, for instance, that there have been a lot of hires in state government.

Ganahl: I disagree with Jared Polis' approach to grow government in Colorado. We're now one of the top employers. If you rank employers, state government is pretty high up there. We also have added 4,000 full-time employees into the agencies that run our lives every day and approved 85 new taxes and fees in Colorado that are really affecting people's lives and their day-to-day pocketbooks. What I would like to do is approach this as if we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. 

We have doubled the state budget in the last decade, almost $40 billion, a couple billion in the last few years under Jared Polis. I would like to talk to the voters or take something to the voters about dealing with TABOR refunds and see if instead of getting checks, you get income tax refunds or ratchet those down as we get the surpluses and those will become permanent.

I would also like to have a self-audit. In my first few weeks as governor, I will order that. We'll look for waste and fraud. The goal is, potentially we find 5 percent to 10 percent. In a huge budget. I think that's probable. Then we'll also look at a hiring freeze and make sure that we address the vacancy funds that are waiting to hire new folks into the government ranks.

Warner: That doesn't get you close to $11 billion, right? 

Ganahl: I'm still going. We've got a lot of special exemptions we can stop doing going forward. I'm not going to say I'm going to take them away from current companies.

Warner: Name one.

Ganahl: I don't have one handy right now. I'll get back to you.

Warner:  Okay.

Editor’s note: Ganahl’s campaign later cited a 2022 law that gives businesses an income tax credit for providing alternative transportation which includes free or partially subsidized mass transit, free or partially subsidized ridesharing arrangements, including bike sharing and electric scooter sharing programs, provision of ridesharing vans, and guaranteed ride home programs” for employees.

Ganahl: But it was offered to Disney to come to Colorado as an example. And Jared Polis said, ‘Hey, you know, we'll give you a sweet deal to come to Colorado.’ That's the kind of thing we need to stop. We need to level the playing field and we've got to make sure that everyone pays their fair share, companies at least.

Editor’s note: In April, after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis criticized both Disney and the board of Twitter for separate actions, Polis took to Twitter to suggest the companies move to Colorado. He never suggested specific financial incentives.

Warner: You mentioned the increase in state jobs. According to a local think tank, the Common Sense Institute, the greatest number of new hires has gone to the state's military and veterans division. Higher education, public health and public safety also showed gains. Which department would you cut first? Let's get specific.

Ganahl: Two-hundred new employees in transportation, which are mostly about monitoring carbon output and monitoring the environment. Not that I don't want clean land, clean air, clean water, but I don't think hiring more bureaucrats is the way to do it. 

They have changed the way public health works. Public health has so much more power right now than they did. And we still have an emergency order in place to give that power to public health, which I disagree with. So that's one of the agencies I would like to take a look at and see if we can't reduce the scope and size of it and give more autonomy back to local municipalities.

Warner: When it comes to the environment, you talked about bureaucrats. That sounds like you have some disdain for state workers.

Ganahl: Absolutely not. I have the utmost respect for the people who work for our state. It's an amazing place.

Warner: You just want fewer of them.

Ganahl: I just want to take a look at how we can create efficiencies and streamline the bureaucracies. I don't believe the state government should be one of the largest employers in the state. That's not how I operate and I think that we can do better there, but I also want to take it slow and be cognizant that we have a lot of great folks that work in the state agencies, take a look at it and see if we can streamline and coordinate better between the agencies and at least put a hiring freeze on for now. 

The other thing that will happen when we go to zero income tax – there are eight, soon to be nine, other states that are zero income tax. They attract a lot of new business and industries. We’ve looked at that with economists. We think that will add back into the coffers about $2 to $3 billion.

Warner: There's a measure on this year's ballot Prop 121,  to drop the state income tax from 4.55 percent to 4.4 percent. Do you support that?

Ganahl: I will always support reducing the state income tax.

Warner: Speaking of the state income tax, the highest earners would see fewer deductions if a different ballot measure, Proposition FF, passes. The additional state revenue would pay for universal free school lunch. Does that have your support?

Ganahl: I haven't had a chance to look at it, but I do want to make sure that every child has access to healthy food and lunches so I'm certainly open to it.

Warner: The spirit of it, you seem to agree with it?

Ganahl: The spirit of it.

Warner: Let's talk about your transportation plan. Infrastructure here is funded largely through the gas tax and a bevy of fees. My understanding is that you want to convert those fees into taxes that would require voter approval. So would that be an increase overall in revenue or just like a wash?

Ganahl: It's a wash, but it's calling out fees to be taxes, which they are. It's taking the pot of money and actually increasing it through bringing in private investment and some matches in the general fund over 10 years, but we're going to sunset it after 10 years. 

These are very specific projects that we're going to pay for. Once we're transparent about how the taxes work where the money's going, my idea is to take it to the voters and say, ‘Here's a list of specific projects that transportation experts around the state have said are fair as far as mapping out the entire state and where we can reduce congestion.’ 

One of the things that we all care about is the environment, the ozone, the smog  that layers over our city. One of the biggest causes of that is congestion and we've got that at 270 and I-25. So my plan addresses those two specific pain points very specifically along with projects across rural Colorado.

Warner: Is that lane expansion in those previous examples?

Ganahl: It's partly lane expansion. It's making sure that we have access to an HOV or paid lane too so that our buses can get across the city easier as well. I am supportive of public transport and I want to make sure that we have lots of options for people but right now expecting people to buy an electric car, if they're a struggling mom that has two kids that they've got to get to daycare and school, and or take public transportation, that's not always realistic for folks. We've also got an auto theft problem, so that's adding to the frustration.

Warner: You talked about being stuck in traffic as contributing to ozone and to climate change but building out lanes – you build it and they will come and it just means that there's often more traffic. It may make a dent for a little while, but aren't you contributing to the very problem you're trying to solve?

Ganahl: My transportation experts don't believe that. We've got to fix the roads we have and make them more efficient and easier for people to get across our state. That's the intention of that transportation plan I'm proposing.

Warner: Here's a key difference between you and Governor Polis: You say he focuses too much on mass transit and alternative vehicles. And in announcing your transportation plan recently, you said, quoting here, ‘Jared Polis is stealing one of our basic freedoms. Driving gives you the freedom to go where you want, when you want.’

I'll say that Polis is also spending billions of dollars on road construction and expansion, but ozone pollution is getting worse, climate change is accelerating. Where would a Ganahl administration make investments in public transit?

Ganahl: We've got to make sure we're maxing out or making as efficient as possible the public transportation we already have. Right now, it's not utilized to the maximum capability. So I think that's one conversation. Another conversation is this EPA situation around our ozone and Jared Polis decided not to submit the science to the EPA that would have allowed us to get an exemption from the mandate to use blended fuels which is going to cost us 30 to 40 cents  more a gallon, maybe up to 50 cents a gallon starting in 2024.

Warner: He has changed his mind and is now vehemently fighting against the idea of this more expensive blended gas.

Ganahl: He creates the problem and then he says, ‘I'm the one to fix it.’ This is not the right approach to fixing this problem. All he had to do was submit the report when it was due and we wouldn't be in this situation.

Warner: The EPA, by the way, estimates it's 3 cents per gallon.

Ganahl: They are not correct. They are not being honest and real with the people of Colorado. We have lots of experts who are saying that's not accurate.

Warner: So you think that that is going to put more of a squeeze on Coloradans?

Ganahl: Absolutely. Also, you're expecting truckers and buses and a lot of transportation vehicles to go electric too far too fast.

Warner: The major automakers are all-in on electric vehicles. GM's goal is that its new vehicles will be electric by 2035. Ford says 40 to 50 percent of its new models will be electric by the end of this decade. I understand you drive a Tesla. Aren’t you proof that adoption is occurring?

Ganahl: I also have a Chevy Express van with 140,000 miles on it that I drive my kids around mostly. 

I do want to support the drive towards renewables and electric where it makes sense, but how is our grid going to support it if we all of a sudden we go all-electric cars? We don't have the capabilities to do that. I just believe it's too far, too fast. It's too expensive for most people to go out and buy a new electric car.

Warner: But gas is expensive.

Ganahl: Gas is expensive but, do you think a mom making $40,000 a year raising two kids can go out and buy a $50,000 electric car right now and then pay to have a charging station put in her garage because she doesn't have time to go sit at the mall and charge her car for a couple hours? That doesn't work in reality. 

You've also got to think about the people who live across rural Colorado. You're expecting the truckers, the ranchers, the farmers to make sure that they have an electric car and that they have a charging station? That's not realistic and a lot of the state is rural. 

Again, the current governor is making policy decisions and driving towards a goal for the metro area which isn't helpful to the rest of Colorado.

Warner: Do you trust the science that people are contributing to climate change?

Ganahl: Yes.

Warner: I want to talk about housing. This is another topic that came up a lot when CPR reporters talked to voters around the state earlier this summer. Here's Richard Montoya of Thornton.

Richard Montoya: ‘To buy a house, it's half a million dollars everywhere in Colorado, $600,000 $700,000, so this is insane. I make pretty good money, I think anyway, and you can't even afford to buy a house.’

Warner: When we spoke with you before the primary, you cited regulations as a big driver of what it costs to build a home. I wonder, these months later, if you could name a regulation or aspect of code you'd like to remove to make that cheaper?

Ganahl: It’s not necessarily the governor's job to change the codes. Those are mostly local, but the governor's job is to be inspirational and be a leader, have big bold ideas about how we can transform housing in Colorado, how I can encourage local municipalities to make it easier to develop affordable housing.

Warner: Give me an example of how you would encourage a municipality to do that.

Ganahl: We could bring some experts here to show how other cities have transformed malls, older malls or retail centers into housing developments. 

Warner: Is there one you like?

Ganahl: You mean from around the city? I live in Lone Tree. I think Lone Tree is doing a very good job and Mayor (Jackie) Millet's looking at all kinds of options for how to transform places in our city to make it livable for people who are young, can't afford, you know, a half-million dollar house. We’ve got some really amazing innovative leaders in Colorado that can be examples for how we do it. Lone Tree is one of them. 

I just think we've got a lot of opportunity to kind of go big and be a leader on this front – tiny homes, modular homes. There's a veterans community that's developing modular homes so that veterans can afford to live down in Southern Colorado. 

I'm learning a lot about some really cool options that we could talk about, inspire local municipalities to try, pilot, share ideas, you know, look at innovation in housing. How do we create, in dense situations like community housing? So, you have an old building and you make it so that there's a community kitchen and there's a community living area and then they don't need as big of a living space for their actual unit.

Warner: I hear in all of these specific examples of what you'd like to see. I'm a little unclear on what it means for a governor to inspire. Help me understand that. This is an intractable problem and I think there are people who are hungry for specific solutions.

Ganahl: As an example, several leaders just went from Colorado to Houston to see the homeless problem. They're trying to find solutions that work around the country and as the governor of Colorado, it's my job to inspire people to think outside of the box, look at different ways to solve problems. I'm a problem solver. That's what I've done my whole life. And I do big things.

Warner: Would you put money along with this? For instance, you explore the mall (idea)  and here's some state funds. 

Ganahl: Perhaps for a pilot program or to incentivize a community to try something new, but again I’m not a big fan of the government spending their dollars to do that. I believe the government has very basic things that they should take care of, but private industry and charities and communities can certainly get together and I can be a coordinator and a collaborator with them to help them come together and do big bold things.

Warner: Colorado's crime rates are increasing. What needs to be done to bring them down?

Ganahl: There are a few bills that have been problematic to crime in Colorado, and fentanyl. One was decriminalizing fentanyl. We can have compassion for addicts but also make sure that fentanyl, which is a poison that's destroying our community, is addressed.

We've got to give law enforcement and ICE agents the ability to stop the flow of fentanyl across our southern border of Colorado. They are telling me directly that their hands are tied. They can't do a whole lot. They can't coordinate when they know who a drug dealer is, or a trafficker. The other thing we've got to do is have new leadership in some of the agencies and on the parole board, that actually want to go more tough on crime.

And it's pretty easy to stay out of jail right now whether it's the PR bonds or this catch-and-release attitude or mentality about the current administration. We just have very different ideas about how to solve this problem, but it's one we've got to take head on. We're number one in all the wrong things, whether it's bank robberies, property crime, auto theft. It's the number one issue I hear around the state, not just in Denver but all over Colorado.

Editor's note: Colorado ranked first in the nation last year in bank robberies. Citing FBI data, national news site CenterSquare ranked Colorado third in the nation in property crime in 2020. Citing the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the Common Sense Institute ranked the state first in the nation in auto theft in 2021.

Warner: The Colorado legislature passed a major criminal justice reform bill two years ago. Among other things, it requires law enforcement officers to wear body cameras, changes the actions they can take during protests, allows officers to be sued individually for misconduct. Did that law go too far?

Ganahl: From speaking with law enforcement leaders, parts of it, they believe are good, other parts make it very, very difficult to recruit and retain talent in law enforcement and that's a huge struggle right now. 

I don't believe anyone's actually been sued yet or had a successful lawsuit on that front, but I think it's a very concerning trend to start allowing the public to sue individual officers. I believe most of the officers have good hearts. They're trying to do their best to protect us and our communities. Are there some, you know, bad folks? Yes, and there are other ways to deal with it besides taking immunity away from all officers. I don't believe that's the right approach and neither did they. They said it's very difficult to get people to want to be a law enforcement officer now.

Warner: It sounds to me that in a Ganahl administration, law enforcement would very much have your ear.

Ganahl: Law enforcement would but also communities. I want to repair the damage that's been done, this rift in some communities where they don't trust law enforcement and law enforcement is worried about their relationship with the community.

Warner: But the provision you just cited was intended to do just that.

Ganahl: I just disagree with the approach.

Warner: Let's talk about COVID for a moment. President Biden recently said the pandemic is over. Do you think that's right?

Ganahl: Well, I don't think COVID is going away anytime soon. We've got to be cognizant of it and aware when we have outbreaks, but I do think that the emergency orders, the mandates, the quarantines, the instant rush to shut everything down, I think we can relax and not just run there as quickly.

People are exhausted. They're tired of dealing with this. It’s been a long couple of years. We've got a lot of healing to do. We've learned a lot about how to deal with a pandemic if it happens again. Right now, the most important thing I'm focused on is the children's mental health crisis. We already had high suicide in Colorado before.

Warner: Youth suicide in particular.

Ganahl: Yeah, and now it's a lot worse. Children's Hospital tells me it's getting worse by the day. They don't have the resources. They can't handle the load of children who need help. It's taking four or five months for a young person to get an appointment. We can't put that on schools. They don't have the mental health counselors to take care of this. I'm really worried about our mental health care system in Colorado and our children right now.

Warner: I hear that you want there to be more mental health support for young people but at the beginning of this conversation the theme was very much shrinking the role of government. Square those for me please.

Ganahl: It’s how you spend the dollars, right? It's making sure that you're investing in the right things and I think there's a lot of money being spent on programs that aren't working, that aren't moving the needle in the mental health space, specifically … 

Warner: Do you have an example of that?

Ganahl: I've met with a lot of organizations. They’re very siloed, the different approaches to helping young people, all people, and so you may have an addiction center here, another group of mental health professionals over here. You have a hospital over here. Not a lot of coordination that I'm seeing. 

I know Governor Polis has tried to address that, but it's not working the way we're doing it right now. We've got to change the way we do funding. We've got to make it outcome based, so that the goal is to get people better and not stuck in the system. I think we've got to create flexible, nimble facilities that focus on different problems, smaller hospitals and clinics that are more nimble and flexible that can help people addressing addiction, teen suicide, etc.

We've got to have a governor who will talk about it all the time like, ‘Kids, it's okay not to feel okay. Here are some resources. Here are some other kids who've been through this.’ You know, a public education campaign maybe on how they can get some help. We've got the new 988 hotline and other resources for … 

Warner: (988) the National Suicide Hotline.

Ganahl: Yeah, I just want to be a voice for children right now. So many are struggling, so many have been isolated and drugs are one of the go-tos.

Warner: You know, one of the highest youth suicide rates is among trans youth.

Ganahl: Yes.

Warner: But you've really kind of villainized them in this campaign.

Ganahl: Oh, my goodness, not at all. I have so much compassion, if you're talking about trans children or grown ups, whatever. I care so much for all children and I have so much compassion for children who are …

Warner: Apparently you did sign on with Nine PAC. 

Ganahl:  No, I didn't. Nine PAC is a federal PAC.  I spoke at the event about the struggles that a mom was dealing with whose daughter was assigned to a roommate that the school didn't tell her but was a biological male. And she found out only through a text from the person at the last minute. She didn't feel comfortable with that. And she was shocked that the school hadn't been forward about it and they're actually …

Warner: You say biological male, that's a trans person.

Ganahl: Well, we've got to also respect young women's ability to feel safe and comfortable in situations too, biological women's ability to do that. This is all new stuff to a lot of people. We've got to work through it. We've got to be able to have brave conversations about it.

To just label someone anti-trans or that the whole Republican Party is like that, that's not accurate at all. That's not accurate and it's not helpful to the kids who are dealing with these situations. And guess what, we worked through it. The daughter and the young person who is trans are friends now. They're good friends. And it just took some conversations and getting comfortable with the situation. So you guys in the media have to stop this.

Warner: Let's talk about abortion. You've said you would support a ban on abortion except in cases of rape, incest and the health of the mother or fetus. You opposed a state law that protects abortion in Colorado.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham has proposed that abortions be banned federally after 15 weeks, with the same exceptions that you support. Would you like to see a federal ban, thus removing Colorado's autonomy on this?

Ganahl:  First of all, I haven't declared any statement about what I would ban or not ban. What I've said is, I'm a mom of four, I have young kids, twins that are 10 years old, that were born early. I've been through miscarriages. I've been through in vitro. I've had quite a journey to building my family. 

I have so much compassion for women who are facing all kinds of things when it comes to building their family or not and making those decisions. Also, I am pro-life, but with exceptions for the horrific instance of rape and incest and serious health issues of the baby and mom. But what I will say, what I will pledge is that any significant changes to the abortion law should go to the people of Colorado. It should be a vote to the people of Colorado. That's the right approach and I've got to find common ground.

Warner: So any change in Colorado on abortion, you want to go to the people, but can I get you on the record ...

Ganahl: That's correct.

Warner: That choice would be abrogated completely if the federal government put a ban in place? Would you support a federal abortion ban?

Ganahl: I believe it's a state's rights issue. That's why I supported Roe v. Wade being turned down because I believe it's a decision of the states.

Warner: Your running mate, the man who would serve as your lieutenant governor,  is Danny Moore, a business consultant and 24-year veteran of the U.S. Navy. 

In the past, Mr. Moore has questioned the validity of the 2020 election and Colorado's mail in voting system. In a 2021 social media post, he wrote that President Biden was elected, ‘by the Democrat steal.’ The voters weeded out many election deniers in the (June) Colorado primary. As you were vetting Mr. Moore, why wasn't this a nonstarter for you?

Ganahl: Because Danny addressed it right after that. He said he was upset, he was fired up after the election and he cleared it up within a couple weeks or months after that. So it's in the past. We both agree that Joe Biden is our president. He's our commander-in-chief. 

I picked Danny because he's a really amazing human being. He grew up in the projects of Louisiana. He went into the Navy. He's one of eight kids. His mom had her first baby at 14 or 15. 

He has an amazing family and he retired from the Navy after 24 years at the highest enlisted rank of master chief. Then he went out and started a business with one employee, grew it to over 100 employees now and is a great entrepreneur. And he has a heart for kids like I do. He's African American. He wants to make sure that minority kids in Colorado have a voice and that they have a bright future.

Right now, 95 percent of kids, African American and Hispanic kids, in Denver Public Schools cannot read at grade level. That is a tragedy. That's the example of one thing we have to go after to fix. And Danny and I are completely dedicated to doing that.

Editor’s note: A mid-year assessment of third graders in DPS showed 95 percent of Latino and Black students were not reading at grade level. About 60 percent of the district’s third graders took the test. DPS officials say the assessment is not as comprehensive as the annual statewide tests and is meant to help teachers gauge their students’ understanding of material.

Warner: Now earlier in the conversation, you criticized Jared Polis for changing his mind about stuff, but in this case, on something as fundamental as an American election, it's okay that Danny Moore has changed his mind on whether that was a steal?

Ganahl: Boy, Ryan, that's a stretch. There is a big difference between changing your mind about whether fentanyl should be allowed in Colorado as a misdemeanor or whether the Green New Deal should be implemented fully here and destroy the energy industry in Colorado – there's just a list of things that Jared Polis has gone back and forth on.

Warner: But Moore's change of views on an American election – that's huge.

Ganahl: So what do you say to Hillary Clinton or Stacey Abrams or other Democrats who had problems with previous elections? Stacey Abrams still hasn't conceded. 

That's not fair. Why is it so hard for us to have open honest conversations? The better question instead of what happened in the election is why do so many people feel uncomfortable about the elections, whether it was the 2016 election with Trump or the 2020 election with Biden? 

Again, this goes back to having tough conversations where we listen to people and their concerns instead of shutting them out or calling them names. That's not the American way. We have free speech in this country for a reason and we should be able to question what the government does and how our elections are operated. We have a pretty good election system here in Colorado, but who's to say it can't get better? Who's to say we can't build trust better with the people of Colorado? That's my job as a leader.

Warner: There's something you said to me in our last interview that I would like more clarity on and it has to do with an attorney named John Eastman. While you were regent, CU named him a visiting professor of conservative thought. Eastman was also a legal adviser and key player in President Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 election. He left CU shortly after the insurrection. And when you and I spoke in June, you distanced yourself from Mr. Eastman. Let's listen back.

(Heidi Ganahl, June 13, 2022:_

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: Heidi Ganahl, since you had told me that, 9News and other outlets have reported on emails that show you tried to arrange a meeting with Mr. Eastman. It never happened because he got COVID. Why weren't you transparent with me about that?

Ganahl: I was transparent. I've never met with him, I've never spoken to him.

Warner: But you tried and you wanted to.

Ganahl: I tried. I have lunch with every conservative scholar that comes to CU and this was far before any of this stuff happened. It was back in September or October. So it didn't happen. We did one email exchange about, ‘Hey, let's go to lunch.’ He got sick and I never followed up, he never followed up and that's the extent of it.

Warner: What did you want to talk to him about?

Ganahl: Like I said, I meet with every conservative visiting scholar that comes to CU. I have for years. At that point, he was not involved in any of this.

Warner: I just want to be clear on the timing because on Oct. 6, 2020, you wrote, ‘I have heard wonderful things about you and we'd love to get together if you are available.’ So that's just before, that's a month before the election.

Ganahl: Right. He was not involved, as far as I knew, he had no involvement in the election.

Warner: So it was not your intention to talk about any early rumblings about overturning the election? I just want to get that clear on the record.

Ganahl: No.

Warner: If you lost the race, would you concede?

Ganahl: Yes.

Warner: As you've been running for office over the last several months and touring the state, I wonder if there has been something where you've changed your mind on a position because of something you've heard.

Ganahl: Oh, certainly, I've learned so much about all the issues and surrounding myself with experts, whether it's water where I have 27 water leaders from around the state that are helping me create my water policy or farmers and ranchers and the challenges they face.

Warner: Let's talk water.

Ganahl: Sure.

Warner: What was an epiphany, an aha moment for you?

Ganahl: That we cannot cede our decision-making to the federal government, that Colorado water decisions should be made by Coloradoans. 

I believe that we've got to do everything we can to protect what's rightfully ours and that's being hamstrung right now by storage projects that are not able to go through. So a lot of our water is flowing out of the state of Colorado. If we can do all we can to push back on the federal government and the holdups that they're providing, and some are happening within the state, then let's get storage going. Instead of studying it, continuing to study it, we need the water. We need to store it. We need to make sure that our farmers, our ranchers, the people along the front range, new developers that are putting affordable housing together, have access to it.

Warner: Now, of course, that water belongs collectively to the Colorado River states. It's not a question of it being purely Colorado's. Do you want the San Luis Valley to Douglas County Water Transfer Project? I think you're in Douglas County.

Ganahl: I'm in Douglas County, but I've spent a lot of time in the San Luis Valley and that is not a project that's going to see the light of the day, I don't believe. There are so many people upset on both sides. We've got to figure out a different solution.

Warner: I mean, this is the intractability, though, of these massive projects ...

Ganahl: Right.

Warner:  … that I know you say are being constantly studied, but they're held up because …

Ganahl: They don't need to be held up for 20 years. That's ridiculous. We need innovation, we need creative ideas. We need communities to come together to solve these problems and we've got to respect property rights, but we also have to look at communities and making sure that they can thrive as well.