For all of the accomplishments Gov. Jared Polis touts from his first four years as Colorado’s top state lawmaker, GOP challenger Heidi Ganahl says, if elected, she’ll work to reverse it.
“When people ask me what I’m going to do as governor, I say I’m going to undo a lot of the damage that has been done,” the University of Colorado Regent and business owner said at a debate in Pueblo last month.
Ganahl, whose campaign did not respond to multiple requests for a candidate survey, has echoed party calls for increased public safety funding and tougher drug offender policies.
“We need to return to law and order, with a strong parole board, truth in sentencing, and bail reform that does not allow for the release of repeat offenders,” she says on her campaign website.
Ganahl said she vows to make any amount of possession of fentanyl a felony, reversing a 2022 bipartisan legislative decision to decriminalize the possession of a gram or less of fentanyl. In the Pueblo debate, she said she’d go as far to declare a “state of emergency” over fentanyl use in Colorado.
She also vows to “fire the parole board and replace them with people ready to protect our communities” and “appoint judges who will uphold the law as written.”
On crime, which has seen a national increase amid the pandemic, Polis says his administration is “improving public safety by expanding background checks on gun purchases while making sure local law enforcement have the tools they need to fight crime and doing more to prevent crime in the first place by expanding drug treatment and mental health services.”
The same fentanyl bill Ganahl points to as a disaster for Colorado, Polis says has actually helped by providing $54 million to state agencies for prevention, education and treatment.
The two business owners have also barbed one another about Colorado’s economy. Ganahl has outlined ways she’d save the state money: enacting a state hiring freeze on public workers, shrinking the size of Colorado’s government by 10%, and “ask(ing) the people of Colorado to approve TABOR Refunds as permanent income tax reductions.”
She’s particularly faced criticism about her tax plan. Last month, at a forum, moderator Dean Singleton, former editor and publisher for the Denver Post, said her proposal for zero income tax and reducing the gas tax by half was “bullsh*t.”
“Well, a lot of people across Colorado think the government’s total bullsh*t right now, Dean,” she responded.
The Polis administration worked to get $750 checks to individuals and $1,400 checks to joint filers earlier this year. While he called it the “Great Colorado Payback”, it was the product of TABOR and not directly the doing of Polis.
Beyond that, Polis says he’s saved Coloradans money in other ways, such as signing a bill that caps the price of insulin and approving full-day kindergarten and universal pre-school, which were campaign promises he previously made.
On education, Ganahl has doubled down on a claim that children in at least 30 Colorado schools are dressing up in animal costumes and identifying as cats.
“Yeah, kids identifying as cats. It sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it’s happening all over Colorado, and schools are tolerating it. It’s insane!” she said during an interview radio interview last month. “What on earth are we doing? Knock it off. Schools, put your foot down. Like, stop it. Let’s get back to teaching basics and not allow this woke ideological stuff to infiltrate our schools. And it is happening here in Colorado. It’s why I moved from Boulder Valley to Douglas County, because it was happening in my kids’ schools four years ago.”
So far, no school district in Colorado has identified kids claiming to be animals in their classrooms.
“It’s disappointing that our opponent is focusing her time on conspiracy theories and shaming Colorado kids,” a spokesperson for the Polis campaign told Westword about the claim. “It just goes to show you how extreme and out of touch she really is. Meanwhile, Governor Polis is focused on empowering parents and helping kids get a great education in Colorado, starting with high-quality preschool and kindergarten, improving access to career skills in high school, and reducing the costs of higher education.”
Ganahl has also faced scrutiny in her pick for Lieutenant Governor: Danny Moore, a former Navy Master Chief who operates an aerospace company in Aurora. Moore is also the former chair of the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission, but lost that position after he made election-denying posts on social media.
Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera will once again run with Polis. She’s a former state lawmaker, whose emphasis has been on health care.
Meet Jared Polis
Jared Polis is the current governor of Colorado. He was elected in 2018 after serving a decade representing the state’s second congressional district in Washington, D.C. Prior to politics, Polis made millions of dollars in business ventures. In college, he founded an internet provider service and later an online florist company and a greeting card company. He is a father of two, married to Marlon Reis, and Polis is the first openly gay governor in the U.S.
Jared Polis Q&A
Colorado enacted far-reaching reforms affecting police agencies across the state. Mandating truly independent review of police-related deaths and injuries wasn’t among the new requirements created by Senate Bill 217. Should every police agency be required to create some type of independent oversight mechanism?
I greatly respect the role that our local police and safety departments play in keeping our communities safe. I know Colorado officers of the peace and police and sheriff departments work hard to hold themselves accountable and provide transparency to the people they serve. It is critical for communities and their police departments to create real trust, including independent oversight that can help a department and a city to provide a high level of accountability. At the state level, we have made progress toward creating more civilian oversight through the Police Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) board, which is now able to hold accountable officers who are found guilty of violating certain standards, such as use of excessive force. The board has also increased transparency in policing by making a database public of officer decertifications and violations of state standards.
The Polis Administration put a focus on local control (as with oil and gas, the COVID pandemic and more). Should this policy style continue? Or should state lawmakers shape policies that fit the entire state?
With steady leadership and hard work with Coloradans, the state experienced one of the lowest death rates, shortest shutdowns, highest vaccination rates and quickest economic recoveries in the nation. Today, because of our approach, Colorado’s unemployment rate is steadily decreasing, the state is topping the list of strongest recovering U.S. state economies, and we are charting our own path to a better future. A Governor should create more freedoms, not less, so Coloradans can live the lives they want to live in a community in our state that reflects your values. Support for local control is a legitimate bias of mine, but not an absolute solution for every issue in every instance. There are many issues that are interjurisdictional by nature including water in Colorado.
Despite many lauded changes in Obamacare, the cost of healthcare in Colorado and across the nation has continued to climb steadily, outpacing almost every other nation. What can the Legislature do to not just halt regular increases, but push down health care costs?
My top priority is saving Coloradans money – and healthcare is one of the biggest expenses for families. Four years ago, I committed to Coloradans that I would cut the cost of healthcare and that is exactly what we did and are doing. Through the Office of Saving People Money on Healthcare and our partners in the legislature, we have capped insulin costs, cut insurance premiums by 26% for market coverage most used by small businesses and their employees, and created the Colorado Option which will bring down costs by another 15% over the next 5 years. We are also driving prices down by expanding prescription drug import programs and increasing enforcement of our hospital pricing transparency laws. There is a lot more work ahead to save people money on healthcare.
Many argue that the generally poor condition of Colorado roads and underfunded schools is due in large part because of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which prevents legislators from raising taxes and caps tax revenues, returning “excesses” to residents. Why is this true and what’s the solution, or why is this untrue and how can Colorado better fund roads and schools?
Last year, we passed one of the most comprehensive bipartisan transportation bills in our state’s history that provides sustainable funding to fix our roads, bridges, and tunnels over the next 10 years. We have also made historic investments in K-12, increasing per pupil funding in public schools by 18 percent ($12-13k per classroom), increasing teacher pay and reducing class sizes. I sincerely believe that every Colorado family should be able to access high quality, low-cost education that empowers our kids to dream and succeed. Under my administration, Colorado has achieved the rank of 5th best state overall for education, but there is still more work to be done to ensure that Colorado and Coloradans’ brightest days are still ahead including practical solutions to invest in our schools and roads.
Would you sign a ban on so-called assault-style weapons? Why or why not?
I will always do what’s right for Colorado. We can keep our communities safe from gun violence while also respecting Coloradans’ Second Amendment right to use guns for protection or recreation. Colorado has strengthened gun laws including magazine capacity limits, red flag laws and expanded background checks, and I’ll continue to look for proven, data-driven steps to reduce gun violence and ensure guns are not accessible to dangerous people.
Having legalized and regulated recreational marijuana, should Colorado pursue legalization of recreational psilocybin aka hallucinogenic mushrooms?
Voters are going to decide this issue in November. Regardless of the outcome, I’ll make sure the state is ready to implement the will of the voters.
Would you support legislation imposing restrictions on abortions?
Under my administration, Colorado remains a state where individual freedoms are protected and every person has the ability to live, work, and thrive. I recently signed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which codified the right to choose and use of contraception into Colorado state law. We also issued an Executive Order making it clear that Colorado will not assist other states’ prosecution of reproductive healthcare providers and patients. I will continue to fight for every person’s fundamental right to make reproductive health care decisions – free from government interference.
Should the state seek to prevent growth in communities that cannot prove sustainable water sources?
Water is Colorado’s lifeblood, and my administration is taking action to make sure our state is building water-conscious communities, a robust and sustainable agricultural economy, and thriving watersheds for many years to come. In addition to aggressively protecting Colorado’s water rights under existing compacts, we are modernizing our water infrastructure and finding innovative ways to conserve Colorado’s most precious resource. I will continue to implement and build upon the Colorado Water Plan and collaborate with Colorado partners at the local, state and federal levels to ensure that the state we are so proud to call home can sustain us into the future.
Colorado cannot pave its way out of highway and road congestion and the air-quality problems it creates. Should the state make a concerted effort to reduce overburdened roads and highways some other way? How?
We can improve our roads, highways and bridges while also protecting our clean air. Under my administration, Colorado is taking historic action to modernize transportation and expand multimodal options so Coloradans can have a brighter future with less traffic, cleaner air, and more freedom. We are delivering a comprehensive network of electric vehicle charging stations across the state, electrifying our transportation sector with electric buses and e-bikes, and improving pedestrian and bicycle safety in cities and towns across the state through our Revitalizing Main Streets program. We will continue expanding transit alternatives to save people money and give people more choices for how they get around our state.
Rural communities, especially farming communities are struggling. Should Colorado do more to subsidize medical, education and other services in rural places to ensure their viability? Where would the money come from?
The challenges of living and working in rural Colorado are unique, and I am committed to listening to and delivering on what rural Colorado needs. That’s why I’ve appointed 525 gubernatorial cabinet and board members from rural communities. We are increasing incentives to bring more qualified teachers, administrators, doctors, nurses and mental health professionals to Colorado’s rural areas, and this includes committing more than $200 million in recovery funds to rural Colorado. We have fixed over 600 miles of rural roads and we are set to bring high speed broadband internet to 99 percent of Colorado households by 2025. We are also setting rural kids up for success with free preschool and kindergarten. We are partnering with ranchers and farmers to help them gain access to new markets, build resiliency, and plan for the next generation of the family business. We also lowered property taxes on farming and ranching lands by 9 percent. Programs like Just Transition and Rural Jump Start are helping create diverse economic opportunities in rural communities, and my administration will continue to make sure all Coloradans have a promise of success no matter where they live.
The EPA and every credible global expert agrees that burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation are the greatest contributors to climate change. Is there a way to reduce carbon emissions enough to prevent climate change and continue to use fossil fuels for those three greatest contributors? What would your administration’s policy be?
My administration is taking bold action to put Colorado on a path to 100% renewable energy by 2040. We already reached an agreement with our utilities to cut emissions by 80% by the end of this decade. We are electrifying our transportation sector and expanding low emission transportation options. We are strengthening accountability for our biggest fossil fuel polluters. We are investing in Colorado’s homegrown renewable energy industries. We are building more energy efficient communities through innovative building practices, promoting density in urban areas, and making sure people can afford to live closer to where they work.
Get to know Jared Polis
Roasted (and subsequently tasted) chiles at the Pueblo Chile Fest!
What is the last concert you attended?
South Park the 25th Anniversary Concert at Red Rocks
What restaurant do you frequent most?
My son’s playtime cafe makes the best homemade lattes
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
What was the last book you read?
Number One Ladies Detective Agency
What is your least favorite household chore?
Washing the dishes (I do the cooking!)
If you had to pick one television show to watch forever, what would it be?
Did you have any New Year’s resolutions? What were they?
To exercise more
What were you most excited to do after pandemic restrictions eased?
Visiting my parents who are both 78
What fun fact about you would most surprise people who know you?
I’m a regular League of Legends player
Meet Heidi Ganahl
Heidi Ganahl is an elected member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents. The former CEO of Camp Bow Wow, a pet care company from Lone Tree earned her bachelor’s degree from the university and then went on to graduate school at the University of Denver. Ganahl is a mom of four and married to Jason Ganahl. She started a brand with her daughter in 2019 called “SheFactor” aimed toward young adult women.