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Stories about Colorado

Pam Anderson wins Republican nomination for Colorado secretary of state

Former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson won the Republican primary for Colorado secretary of state on June 28, 2022, receiving 44% of the vote. Mike O’Donnell and Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters received 29% and 27% of the vote, respectively.

Heading into the primary, Anderson and Peters led in fundraising and media attention. The 2020 election results and election administration took a central role in the race.

The Colorado Sun‘s Jesse Paul wrote, “In virtually every major Republican primary race in Colorado this year … voters will have a choice between a candidate or candidates who … believe the outcome of the last presidential election was fraudulent and those who don’t.”

Regarding the secretary of state primary, Paul described the candidates as, “Peters … [who is] under indictment in a breach of her county’s voting system that she’s accused of orchestrating as part of her efforts to uncover fraud … [and] Anderson, who rejects 2020 election fraud claims.”

Anderson, who highlighted her experience as a city and county clerk, said she was “[t]he only candidate with a record of securing Colorado’s elections,” and that she ensured the use of paper ballots, made ballots public record, and implemented election audits. Anderson received endorsements from three former Republican secretaries of state and The Colorado Springs Gazette.

Anderson will face incumbent Jena Griswold (D) in the general election. Griswold first won election in 2018, defeating former Sec. of State Wayne Williams (R) and ending a 56-year streak of Republican control in the office.

Griswold received 53% of the vote in 2018. More recently, in 2020, Joe Biden (D) won Colorado with 55% of the vote to Donald Trump’s (R) 42%.



Joe O’Dea wins Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Colorado

Joe O’Dea defeated Ron Hanks in the Republican Party primary for U.S. Senate in Colorado on June 28. O’Dea received 55.5% of the vote to Hanks’ 44.5%.

Leading up to the primary, Hanks and O’Dea led in media attention, and O’Dea maintained a lead in fundraising. According to the most recent Federal Election Commission data available, O’Dea had raised over $2.3 million and Hanks had raised $124,840 as of June 8.

O’Dea is the CEO of a Denver-based heavy civil contracting company and owner of the Mile High Station and Ironworks event centers. O’Dea said he ran for Senate “[t]o break the cycle of partisanship. To rebuild this country. To get it moving forward again. Colorado deserves a Senator who represents our voice.”

Hanks is a member of the Colorado House of Representatives representing District 60 since his election in 2020. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Hanks also worked as a linguist, a counterdrug officer, and a counterintelligence agent. Hanks said he was “the only proven conservative state legislator running” and “is adamantly pro-life and an ardent and active supporter of our second amendment.”

Key issues in the race included abortion and the 2020 election. Hanks said all abortions should be banned, and he “believe[s] life starts at conception. There should not be any exceptions.” The primary will “come down to that issue first and foremost. Are we a pro-life party, or aren’t we? I will tell you, I am pro-life, and my opponent is not. End of story,” Hanks said. 

O’Dea said he didn’t support overturning Roe v. Wade or total bans on abortions: “I don’t support a total ban. The country is not 100% pro-life. The country is not 100% pro-choice.” O’Dea said he “would vote for a bill that protects a woman’s right to choose early in the pregnancy. I would also protect that right in cases of rape, incest and medical necessities.”

On the 2020 election, Hanks said he believed former Pres. Donald Trump (R) won. Hanks said election security became a priority for him after 2020: “Just like the changes we felt after 9/11, my mission as a state representative shifted to election integrity. I have been fighting for it ever since.” O’Dea said he did not believe the election was stolen and that Republicans should “stay to the issues” in their campaigns. “I’ve been very clear about my stance. Biden’s our president. He’s lousy,” O’Dea said.

Incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D) was first elected in 2008, and in the 2016 election, won re-election with 50% of the vote. In the state’s 2020 U.S. Senate election, John Hickenlooper (D) defeated incumbent Cory Gardner (R) 54% to 44%, and Joe Biden won the state in the 2020 presidential election by 13 percentage points. In its June 14 ratings, The Cook Political Report rated the general election as Likely Democratic.



Barbara Kirkmeyer wins CO-08 Republican primary

State Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer won the Republican primary for Colorado’s 8th Congressional District on June 28, 2022. Four candidates ran. Kirkmeyer had 40% of the vote. Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann was second with 23%, Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine had 21%, and military veteran Tyler Allcorn had 17%.

Colorado gained an eighth congressional district following the 2020 census.

Kirkmeyer began serving in the state legislature in 2021 after she was on the Weld County Commission.

Three race forecasters view the general election as a Toss-up. Kirkmeyer will face state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary, along with third-party and independent candidates in November.



Campaign submits signatures for initiative to decriminalize certain psychedelic plants and fungi and create a therapy program

On June 27, 2022, the campaign Natural Medicine Colorado reported submitting 222,648 signatures for a ballot initiative to decriminalize certain psychedelic plants and fungi. The ballot initiative would appear on the ballot in November.

The psychedelic plants and fungi, also known as hallucinogenic or entheogenic plants and fungi, that would be decriminalized for personal use are classified as Schedule I controlled substances in Colorado. These plants and fungi include dimethyltryptamine (DMT); ibogaine; mescaline (excluding peyote); psilocybin; and psilocyn.

The ballot initiative would also establish a program for the supervised administration of such substances; create a framework for regulating the growth, distribution, and sale of such substances to permitted entities; and create an advisory board to develop rules and implement the program.

To qualify for the ballot, 124,632 signatures must be valid. The secretary of state is responsible for signature verification. Verification is conducted through a review of petitions regarding correct form. The secretary then takes a sample of 5% of the signatures at random for verification. If the sampling projects between 90% and 110% of the signatures are valid, a full check of all signatures is required. If the sampling projects more than 110% of the required signatures, the initiative is certified for the ballot. If less than 90% are projected to be valid, the initiative fails. If a petition is deemed insufficient, proponents have 15 days to file an addendum with additional signatures. This cure-period does not extend the final deadline for signature submission, which is August 8 for 2022 ballot measures in Colorado.

Kevin Matthews, a representative for Natural Medicine Colorado, said, “This initiative would give Coloradans access to a new, promising, and research-based treatment option for PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges, in a safe, careful, and beneficial way. These medicines can be transformative for people who have suffered for years and struggled to find help.” Matthews also worked on the Decriminalize Denver campaign, which supported Initiative 301 in 2019. Voter approval of Initiative 301 made Denver the first local jurisdiction to decriminalize the use of psilocybin. The initiative made the adult possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms the lowest law enforcement priority in Denver and prohibited the city from spending resources on enforcing related penalties.

As of June 2022, 15 local jurisdictions had decriminalized psilocybin possession or deprioritized policing, prosecution, and arrest for possession of psilocybin. Three jurisdictions did so through the citizen initiative process and 11 did so through local government resolutions.

With the approval of Measure 109 and 110 in 2020, Oregon became the first state to create a program for administering psilocybin products, such as psilocybin-producing mushrooms and fungi, to individuals aged 21 years or older and the first state to decriminalize all drugs.

According to campaign finance reports through June 22, Natural Medicine Colorado reported $2.56 million in contributions (all from New Approach PAC) and $2.52 million in expenditures.

New Approach PAC has supported and funded initiative campaigns nationwide to legalize marijuana and create medical marijuana programs. In 2020, New Approach supported Oregon’s Measure 109 that created a program for administering psilocybin products; and Washington D.C.’s Initiative 81 that declared that police shall treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of plants and fungi that contain ibogaine, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, psilocybin, or psilocyn as among the lowest law enforcement priorities.



Three candidates running for Republican U.S. Senate nomination in Colorado

Three candidates are running in the Republican Party primary for U.S. Senate in Colorado on June 28, 2022. Ron Hanks and Joe O’Dea have led in media attention and fundraising. Daniel Hendricks is running as a write-in candidate.

At the time of the election, Hanks was a member of the Colorado House of Representatives representing District 60 since his election in 2020. Hanks is a U.S. Air Force veteran and also worked as a linguist, a counterdrug officer, and a counterintelligence agent. Hanks said he “is the only proven conservative state legislator running” and “is adamantly pro-life and an ardent and active supporter of our second amendment.”

O’Dea was the CEO of a Denver-based heavy civil contracting company at the time of the election and owned the Mile High Station and Ironworks event centers. O’Dea said he is running “[t]o break the cycle of partisanship. To rebuild this country. To get it moving forward again. Colorado deserves a Senator who represents our voice.”

Key issues in the race include abortion and the 2020 election. Hanks said all abortions should be banned. “I believe life starts at conception. There should not be any exceptions,” Hanks said. O’Dea said he didn’t support overturning Roe v. Wade or total bans on abortions: “I don’t support a total ban. The country is not 100% pro-life. The country is not 100% pro-choice.” On the 2020 election, Hanks said he believed former Pres. Donald Trump (R) won, saying “Trump won this.” O’Dea said, “I don’t believe the election was stolen.”

Incumbent Michael Bennet (D) was first elected in 2008. In the 2016 election, Bennet won re-election with 50% of the vote. In its June 14 ratings, The Cook Political Report rated the general election as Likely Democratic.



Election tampering investigation, 2020 results take central role in Colorado’s Republican primary for secretary of state

Pam Anderson, Mike O’Donnell, and Tina Peters—are running in the Republican primary for Colorado secretary of state on June 28, 2022. The winner will face incumbent Jena Griswold (D) in the November 8 general election. Anderson and Peters, both with experience serving as county clerks, have led in fundraising and media attention.

The Colorado Sun‘s Jesse Paul wrote, “In virtually every major Republican primary race in Colorado this year … voters will have a choice between a candidate or candidates who … believe the outcome of the last presidential election was fraudulent and those who don’t.” Regarding the secretary of state primary, Paul described the candidates as, “Peters … [who is] under indictment in a breach of her county’s voting system that she’s accused of orchestrating as part of her efforts to uncover fraud … [and] Anderson, who rejects 2020 election fraud claims.”

Peters’ indictment has taken a central role in the race. On March 8, 2022, a grand jury in Mesa County indicted Peters on 10 felony and misdemeanor charges as part of an election tampering investigation following the unauthorized release of confidential digital images and passwords associated with the county’s election equipment.

Following Peters’ indictment, Anderson said, “I believe in public service, respect for the law, respect for public safety professionals and upholding the oath I took as an elected official,” adding, “It is time to remove the distractions & return a competent & trusted professional back to the office.” Peters said she was innocent and described the investigation as an effort by Griswold to weaken her candidacy, saying, in a separate statement, “in this Republican primary the voters have two choices. Vote for a public servant who has become a persecuted enemy of the left, while doing her sworn duty,” referring to herself, “[o]r vote for a friend of the progressive power structure,” referring to Anderson.

Anderson was the Wheat Ridge City Clerk from 2003 to 2007 and the Jefferson County Clerk from 2007 to 2015. After leaving office, Anderson headed the Colorado County Clerks Association from 2015 to 2020. Anderson, who highlighted her experience as a city and county clerk, said she was “[t]he only candidate with a record of securing Colorado’s elections,” and that she ensured the use of paper ballots, made ballots public record, and implemented election audits. Anderson received endorsements from three former Republican secretaries of state and The Colorado Springs Gazette.

Peters is the Mesa County Clerk, first elected in 2018. Peters said, as county clerk, she discovered irregularities with the state’s voting systems and that she would “do away with mail-in voting because there is too much fraud involved” and “get rid of the machines, go back to a simpler way that is accountable and sustainable.” Peters said she was the only Republican candidate who could defeat Griswold in the general election, whom she described as “the real enemy of our state, who wants to consolidate elections … [and] be the tyrant over you.” Peters received endorsements from former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former candidate David Winney (R).

In Colorado, candidates can qualify for the primary ballot either through a party convention or by submitting the requisite number of signatures. Peters and O’Donnell qualified through the Republican Party convention. Anderson did not participate in the convention and qualified by submitting signatures.

Republicans controlled the secretary of state’s office, which manages the state’s elections and oversees business registrations, from 1962 until Griswold defeated Wayne Williams (R) in 2018, receiving 53% of the vote to Williams’ 45%. Joe Biden (D) won Colorado with 55% of the vote to Donald Trump’s (R) 42% in the 2020 presidential election.



Four candidates run for GOP nomination in Colorado’s new 8th Congressional District

Four candidates are running in the Republican primary for Colorado’s 8th Congressional District on June 28, 2022. The state gained an eighth congressional district following the 2020 census. Three officeholders and a veteran comprise the candidate field.

Tyler Allcorn is a former Green Beret. Allcorn refers to his experience as a Green Beret and emigrating from Canada when he was nine, naming national security and border security as priorities, along with reducing government spending.

Barbara Kirkmeyer began serving in the state Senate in 2021 and was on the Weld County Commission before that. Kirkmeyer said she passed “17 bills to promote economic and personal freedom and improve Coloradans’ safety and quality of life” in the state Senate and that she left Weld County as “Colorado’s only large, debt-free county.”

Jan Kulmann became mayor of Thornton in 2019 after serving on the city council. Kulmann emphasizes her background as an engineer and as a former member of the Stargate Charter School Governance Board, saying she supports “an all-of-the-above energy policy” and school choice.

Lori Saine began serving on the Weld County Commission in 2021 and previously served in the state House, including as minority caucus chair. Saine said she “took on radical left-wing environmental extremists and defended our oil and gas jobs, our water rights and our Colorado way of life.”

Allcorn, Kirkmeyer, and Kulmann qualified for the primary ballot via signatures. Saine qualified through an assembly vote. She received 73% of delegates’ votes at the district assembly, where a candidate needed at least 30% to advance.

As of June 2022, three race forecasters rate the general election as a Toss-up.

Allcorn, Kirkmeyer, and Kulmann completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. Click the link below to read their responses.

Along with Colorado’s 8th, six other new U.S. House districts were created as a result of apportionment after the 2020 census.

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Colorado governor signs law to direct federal funds to repay unemployment insurance debt

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) on May 25 signed SB22-234, which will direct $600 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help pay back the state’s $1 billion unemployment insurance trust fund debt to the federal government.

The law will also forgive certain non-fraud overpayments, meaning some workers who received more unemployment insurance payments than they were owed during the coronavirus pandemic will not have to pay the money back. The law also contains provisions allowing claimants to work part-time and make up to half their previous incomes without a benefit reduction and allowing unlawful U.S. immigrants to claim unemployment insurance benefits if their employer pays unemployment taxes.

The $600 million funding aims to reduce the unemployment insurance tax burden on employers, which increased in 2022 and was slated to increase in 2023 if the fund’s solvency did not improve.

Unemployment insurance is a joint federal and state program that provides temporary monetary benefits to eligible laid-off workers who are actively seeking new employment. Qualifying individuals receive unemployment compensation as a percentage of their lost wages in the form of weekly cash benefits while they search for new employment.

The federal government oversees the general administration of state unemployment insurance programs. The states control the specific features of their unemployment insurance programs, such as eligibility requirements and length of benefits.

For more information on Colorado’s unemployment insurance program, click here. For information about unemployment insurance programs across the country, click here.

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Newcomers will represent 35% of Colorado’s state legislative districts next year

Thirty-five state legislative districts up for election this year in Colorado are open, meaning no incumbents filed to run. That equals 43% of the 82 districts up for election this year and 35% of the 100 districts in the Colorado General Assembly.

Since no incumbents are present, newcomers to the legislature are guaranteed to win open districts. This is the most guaranteed newcomers to the Colorado General Assembly since 2014.

Colorado is one of 15 states with term limits for state legislators. Incumbents are only allowed to serve eight years in either chamber before becoming term-limited. This year, 14 incumbents are term-limited, six in the Senate and eight in the House. Term limits account for 40% of the 35 open districts this year. The remaining 21 open districts were caused by incumbents leaving office for another reason.

Overall, 182 major party candidates filed: 86 Democrats and 96 Republicans. This is the first time Republican candidates have outnumbered Democrats since 2016, the last time Republicans won a majority of seats in the state Senate.

There are 23 contested primaries: seven Democratic primaries and 16 for Republicans. A contested primary is one where there are more candidates running than nominations available, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

For Democrats, this figure is down from eight in 2020, a 13% decrease. For Republicans, the number increased 46% from 11 in 2020 to 16 in 2022.

Of those 23 contested primaries, six include incumbents: one Democrat and five Republicans. This is the largest number of incumbents in contested primaries since 2014, representing 13% of incumbents who filed for re-election.

The filing deadline for candidates running for state legislative office in Colorado was March 15. Candidates filed to run for all of the state’s 65 House districts and 17 of the 35 Senate districts.

Colorado has been a Democratic trifecta since the party won control of the Senate in 2016. Democrats currently hold a 20-15 majority in the Senate and a 41-24 majority in the House.

Colorado’s primaries are scheduled for June 28, the eighth statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

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Colorado sees the most candidates running for the U.S. House in at least a decade

The filing deadline for candidates running for Congress in Colorado this year was March 15, 2022. Thirty candidates are running for Colorado’s eight U.S. House districts, including 12 Democrats and 18 Republicans. That’s 3.75 candidates per district, more than the 2.28 candidates per district in 2020 and the 3.43 in 2018.

Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:

  • This is the first election to take place under new district lines following the 2020 census, which resulted in Colorado gaining one congressional district. 
  • The 30 candidates running this year are the most candidates running for Colorado’s U.S. House seats since at least 2012, the earliest year for which we have data.

  • Two seats — the 7th and the newly-created 8th district — are open. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D), who represents the 7th district, is retiring. 
  • The two open seats this year are the most open seats in Colorado since at least 2014. There were no open seats in 2020 and 2016, and one open seat in 2018 and 2014.
  • Six candidates, including incumbent Rep. Doug Lamborn (R), are running in the 5th district, the most candidates running for a seat this year. 
  • There are three contested Democratic primaries this year, the most since 2018, when five Democratic primaries were contested. 
  • There are five contested Republican primaries, the most since at least 2014, the earliest year for which we have data.
  • Four incumbents are facing primary challengers, the most since at least 2014. 
  • Two incumbents, Rep. Joe Neguse (D) from the 2nd district and Rep. Jason Crow (D) from the 6th district, are not facing any primary challengers.
  • Candidates filed to run in the Republican and Democratic primaries in all eight districts, so no seats are guaranteed to either party this year. 

Colorado and four other states — Illinois, New York, Oklahoma, and Utah — are holding primary elections on June 28. In Colorado, primaries are conducted on a semi-closed basis, meaning that only registered party members and unaffiliated voters may participate in a party’s primary (voters registered with other political parties cannot participate). Winners in Colorado’s primaries are determined via plurality vote, meaning that the candidate who receives the greatest number of votes cast wins the primary election even if he or she does not win an outright majority.

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