Election 2022: Polis wins 2nd term as Colorado governor


DENVER — Coloradans gave Gov. Jared Polis a second term Tuesday, with the Democrat overcoming a challenge from Republican businesswoman Heidi Ganahl that never seemed to live up to the high hopes of party leaders.

NBC News called the Colorado gubernatorial race for Polis via Twitter at 7:21 pm MDT, shortly after polls closed in the state. The Associated Press called the race for Polis soon after. The governor declared victory at an election night watch party shortly before 8 p.m.

See the latest results here.

Democratic incumbents also were leading in other contests for state executive offices, including attorney general, secretary of state and state treasurer, in early returns election night.

Polis, a multimillionaire entrepreneur and former congressman from Boulder, ran on a record of steering the state through the COVID crisis, and emphasized achieving all-day kindergarten, supporting abortion rights and saving Coloradans money, while Ganahl blamed the incumbent for “skyrocketing crime and inflation” and what she described as “bad drug policies, specifically around fentanyl.”

The founder of a dog-care chain, Ganahl is finishing a term as an at-large University of Colorado regent. In a state that has had a Republican governor only once in the last half-century, she was always seen as an underdog. Still, Ganahl’s primary victory over former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez — who had falsely claimed that Donald Trump won re-election in 2020 — raised hopes among some Republican strategists that she would be a center-right candidate who could appeal to unaffiliated Coloradans, the state’s largest voting bloc.

But then Ganahl, who has acknowledged that Joe Biden won in 2020, picked a running mate, Danny Moore, with a record of questioning that year’s election result. She opposes abortion rights with some exceptions in a state where polls show voters are strongly pro-choice. She complained that students across Colorado were “identifying as cats” at school and causing a disruption, a claim widely denied by school officials. She vowed to do away with the state income tax, but she never clearly explained how she would fund vital services without that revenue.

And while 53% of Coloradans disapprove of Biden’s performance as president, Ganahl was unsuccessful in her efforts to weigh down Polis by linking him to his fellow Democrat. A Marist Institute for Public Opinion survey last month showed 50% of Colorado adults had a favorable opinion of Polis, nearly twice the favorability rate for Ganahl. The same survey showed that, after months of campaigning by Ganahl, 42% of Coloradans either never heard of her or didn’t know enough about her to rate her.

Most polls of likely voters over the last month had Polis leading Ganahl by double digits percentagewise. As of early October, Polis had donated more than $11 million to his own re-election bid, while Ganahl gave about $400,000 to her campaign and loaned it another $850,000.

In other races for state executive positions:

In the race for secretary of state, Colorado’s elections overseer, Democratic incumbent Jena Griswold was leading Republican Pam Anderson, a former Jefferson County clerk, in early returns late Tuesday. Both candidates vouched for the integrity of Colorado elections, defending it from attacks by 2020 election deniers like indicted Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, whom Anderson defeated in the primary.

Anderson had the support of a spectrum of Colorado election officials, including some Democrats. Some of her supporters accused Griswold of taking an overly partisan approach to the job, while some Griswold backers blamed Anderson for campaigning with election deniers.

State Attorney General Phil Weiser, a Democrat, was prevailing in a challenge from Republican John Kellner, the district attorney for Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties, in his bid for a second term in Tuesday’s early returns.

Democratic state Treasurer Dave Peters was ahead in his quest for a second term over Republican Lang Sias, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2018.


Mark Harden is an editor and reporter who has worked with Rocky Mountain PBS, Colorado Community Media, Colorado Politics, The Denver Post, The Denver Business Journal and more. You can reach him here.