Jeff Crank will be the GOP candidate in Congressional District Five

Republican Jeff Crank takes to the stage in Colorado Springs, Colo. on June 25, 2024. He appears to have defeated controversial GOP state party chair Dave Williams.
Bente Birkeland/CPR News
Republican Jeff Crank takes to the stage at the Boot Barn Hall in Colorado Springs, Colo. on June 25, 2024. He appears to have defeated controversial GOP state party chair Dave Williams.

Updated on June 25, at 11:23 p.m.

In the closely-watched, high-stakes Republican primary race for the House seat representing Colorado Springs, Republican Jeff Crank defeated controversial GOP state party chair Dave Williams.

The Associated Press called the race for Crank at 8:20 p.m., with Crank up, 68 percent to 32 percent, over Williams in preliminary results.

“Not enough people go to Washington with the Constitution in mind,” said Crank in his victory speech at the Boot Barn Hall in Colorado Springs. “I will always use the Constitution, my faith, and our freedom as a guide in Washington DC,” he told supporters.  

He also said he hoped his victory would unify the party. 

“It takes grace and it takes forgiveness after hard fought battles. But it's what's required of people who love liberty and freedom more than themselves,” said Crank.

Crank is well known to many conservatives in the district for his years hosting a talk radio show on KVOR AM. Crank also served as the Colorado director for Americans for Prosperity, the conservative Koch brothers-backed free-market advocacy group. In that role, he also hosted a podcast for the group.

His opponent, Williams, was endorsed by former president Donald Trump, a fact that figured prominently in his campaign materials. However, Williams has also been the subject of significant controversy within his own party. Numerous prominent Republicans have called for him to step down as GOP chair, angered by the party’s decision to endorse in contested primaries and an anti-LGBTQ Pride emails campaign.

Williams said in a statement that the race showed the influence of dark money organizations and out of state billionaires

“This was not a campaign against Jeff Crank, but a battle against deep pocketed influence peddlers that wish to control this district," he stated. However, Williams said as chair of the party he will work closely with all of the primary winners to ensure victories in November. 

"I never backed down from a fight and never compromised my Conservative, Christian beliefs,” said Williams.

During the primary, Williams was also accused of using party resources to his advantage. He used the party’s statewide email list to announce his run for Congress and the party sent out mailers attacking Crank for his ties to AFP.

“I see a fresh start for the Republican Party, back to the days when we used to win races, (when) we could bring people in and through the power of addition, bring more and more people to our values and beliefs,” said Republican El Paso County Treasurer Chuck Broerman, who backed Crank.

In many ways, the race was on the front lines of the divide that’s been going on for years between the more traditional conservative wing of Colorado’s Republican Party and the MAGA wing that has risen to power under Williams. Republicans have the fewest number of seats in the statehouse than ever before, hold no elected statewide offices, and have only two very safe congressional districts. As chair Williams has argued the party needs to head right to rally its supporters, while many of the Republican winners of Tuesday’s primaries have pitched a broader vision for GOP politics.

“This is about the future of the Republican Party in Colorado and, frankly, nationally,” said Kelly Maher, who heads the group Restoring Standards and worked on soft side spending against WIlliams in the race. She sees this primary as the perfect microcosm of the “good faith versus bad faith spectrum.”

“I really think that the way that Dave Williams has behaved during this entire thing is such an indictment on really his character. But additionally, he's just absolutely gutted the Republican Party for his own congressional means,” said Maher.

The fifth district seat is open this year because of the retirement of long-time congressman Doug Lamborn. Both Williams and Crank tried unsuccessfully to primary Lamborn in past years, Crank in 2008 and Williams just two years ago.

Now, Crank will get another chance to try for the seat. His Democratic opponent in the race will be either River Gassen or Joe Reagan. As of 7:50 p.m., the two were within two percentage points of each other.