DENVER | Democrat Jared Polis handily won a second term as Colorado’s governor Tuesday, fending off a spirited challenge from Republican Heidi Ganahl, a business entrepreneur who was seeking to become the state’s first GOP governor since 2007.
Polis, a wealthy tech entrepreneur who’s largely self-funded his campaign, insisted that Colorado quickly emerged from the coronavirus shutdown poised for strong economic growth. He championed first-term successes in health care affordability, fully-funded kindergarten and preschool, and vowed to continue his relentless pursuit to move Colorado’s electrical grid to renewable energy by 2040.
President Joe Biden called Polis Tuesday evening to congratulate Polis on his victory, and, at a Democratic watch party at a Denver hotel, the governor thanked Ganahl and extended good will to those who voted against him.
“Whether you voted for me or not, I will work as hard as I possibly can on behalf of you and your family,” Polis said as his supporters hooted and hollered, brandishing signs reading, “Strong Steady Proven.”
During the campaign, Ganahl tried pinning the blame on Polis for inflation, surging crime, underperforming schools and opioid overdose rates affecting youth. She insisted she’d eliminate the state income tax and ask voters to reconsider a law signed by Polis enshrining the right to abortion into state law. Ganahl is a University of Colorado regent.
Ganahl campaigned on the slogan “#MadMom” as she tried painting an ominous portrait of the state. Polis countered by calling himself a “happy dad” of two kids who he is raising in what he called “the best state of all the states.”
About seven in 10 Colorado voters say things in the country are heading in the wrong direction, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of more than 2,700 voters in the state.
About three-quarters of voters say the condition of the economy is either not so good or poor, the survey found, compared with about a quarter who call it excellent or good. About a third say their family is falling behind financially.
The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that recognized a constitutional right to abortion, also played a role in most voters’ decisions, with about eight in 10 calling it a factor in how they cast their ballot. About a quarter call the court’s overturning of Roe the single most important factor in their vote.
Courtney Danis, a 20-year-old psychology student, said the main reason she voted for Polis is to protect abortion rights for all women — even though she long opposed abortion on a personal level. Citing the Supreme Court’s Roe decision, she said: “I realized things can happen to people without them choosing it … and it’s important to at least have a choice in (having an abortion).”
During the campaign Polis criticized Ganahl for appointing a running mate who has claimed that Joe Biden was not legitimately elected president in 2020.
A majority of Colorado voters — about three-quarters — say they are confident that ballots will be counted accurately, according to the poll, though about two in 10 say they are either not too confident or not at all confident.
James Hampl, 47, an engineer and registered Democrat, said he was voting for Ganahl because he feels Colorado Democrats have moved too far to the left and given too much leeway to criminals.
”(Democrats) are letting people get away with too much,” Hampl said as he voted in suburban Arvada. “We shouldn’t be far-right, and we shouldn’t be far-left. … We should be more central.”
Associated Press writers Sarah Rankin in Washington, D.C., and Jesse Bedayn in Arvada contributed to this report.