State Rep. Gabe Evans will take on first-term Congresswoman Yadira Caraveo in Congressional District 8

8th Congressional District candidate Gabe Evans at a primary watch party at Satire Brewery in Thornton, Colorado on Tuesday, June 25, 2024.
Molly Cruse/CPR News
8th Congressional District candidate Gabe Evans at a primary watch party at Satire Brewery in Thornton, Colorado on Tuesday, June 25, 2024.

Updated: 11:25 p.m. June 25, 2024

When the results started coming in Tuesday night, the Republican primary in Colorado's most politically competitive congressional seat didn't stay in doubt long.

State Rep. Gabe Evans opened an immediate and overwhelming lead over his Republican rival, Janak Joshi. In early returns, Evans had 78 percent of the vote, to Joshi’s 22 percent.

The Associated Press called the race for Evans less than a half hour after the polls closed.

It could be one of the most consequential outcomes of primary night in Colorado. The 8th is one of the most competitive Congressional seats in the nation. Stretching from north of Denver out to Greeley, it covers suburbs, exurbs and rural plains country. Republicans hope that the winner of this primary will go on to unseat incumbent Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo.

Evans was widely expected to dominate the contest. He raised 15 times more money than Joshi and secured the endorsement of former President Donald Trump and a dozen members of Congress, as well as influential anti-Trump conservatives like Americans for Prosperity. Those figures and groups saw him as the stronger option to flip the district.

“I'm going to work as a big tent Republican, with anyone who believes in those same broad principles,” Evans said at a recent campaign event.

Evans, a former Army helicopter pilot and Arvada police officer, was elected to the state legislature in 2022, representing portions of Adams and Weld counties. He grew up in Aurora and in Elbert County.

His opponent, Joshi, is a retired doctor and medical practice owner who surrendered his medical license and was later elected to three terms in the state House, representing a Colorado Springs district. 

In advertisements and debates, Joshi portrayed himself as the real conservative in the race. His campaign website proclaimed him the “only Pro-Trump, America First Republican” running, despite Trump’s endorsement of Evans.

Joshi won only a few endorsements — but he did have the support of the state Republican Party. 

The state party took the unusual step of endorsing candidates in the contested primaries this year, picking between Republicans in multiple high-profile races. Evans refused to participate in the process, as did several other candidates in other congressional races.

State party chair Dave Williams said the state GOP would still support Evans in the general election but the relationship between the two men is clearly strained. Evans signed on to a letter calling for the potential ouster of state chair Dave Williams, in part over his meddling in the primaries.

Primary result sets up a national-level battle for the general election 

Caraveo won her first election in 2022 by only a couple thousand votes. In that same race, a Libertarian took nearly 10,000 votes — leading some Republicans to complain of a “spoiled” race. There is a Libertarian running in this year’s election, too. Eric Joss said he’d drop out if the state party’s preferred candidate, Joshi, wins the primary. With Evans as the nominee, it looks like Joss will stay in the race.

Evans had tried to carve out more moderate positions on top issues than his opponent. He describes himself as pro-life but says he would not vote for a national abortion ban, and similarly says that immigration authorities should focus on undocumented immigrants who are committing other crimes, rather than the “deport them all” message carried by candidates like Joshi and Rep. Lauren Boebert. 

Evans also espouses fairly typical conservative messages on cutting taxes and regulations, saying he would start by paring back the IRS.

Observers see Evans as the stronger candidate to take on Caraveo. He’s from the same end of the district as her, and like her has Mexican-American roots. Caraveo is the daughter of immigrants, while one set of Evans’ grandparents emigrated from Mexico.