Heidi Ganahl, the Republican candidate running for Colorado governor, answered “yes” when asked during a candidate forum Saturday if she believes President Joe Biden was “legally elected.”
Ganahl, a University of Colorado regent, had long avoided questions during her campaign about whether she agrees with former President Donald Trump’s “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from him. She has expressed support for a Colorado-based activist group that promotes election conspiracy theories, and she chose as her running mate Danny Moore, who has previously said that the election was stolen.
Moore also participated in the Saturday forum, and, in a reversal, he also answered “yes” to the question of whether Biden was legally elected.
The Saturday event was the first annual Rocky Mountain NAACP Colorado Montana Wyoming State-Area Conference Bipartisan Candidate Forum. Various candidates for local, state and federal office participated. It took place at the True Light Baptist Church in Denver and was moderated by Veronica Bell and Pastor Paul Burleson.
Many of the topics discussed were of particular interest to Black and other non-white voters. Burleson asked a later panel of candidates that included state Rep. Iman Jodeh, a Democrat from Aurora and the first Muslim in the Coloardo Legislature, about rising white nationalism in America.
“I think in the wake of MAGA, in the wake of even our own unfortunate congressional member Lauren Boebert, these folks have given people permission to act out, and sometimes violently, towards minority communities,” Jodeh said. “It is an experience, and a lived experience, of all people of color.”
Last year, a video circulated that showed Boebert, who represents Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, make a suicide-bomber joke about U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who is Muslim.
I think in the wake of MAGA, in the wake of even our own unfortunate congressional member Lauren Boebert, these folks have given people permission to act out, and sometimes violently, towards minority communities.
“Every time a racist trope has happened from our government or in our communities, it’s essentially giving those supporters permission to say, ‘OK, if they think this, I’m going to act out on that belief,’ and sometimes, if not often, it is violently,” Jodeh said.
Burleson asked candidates if they support reparations for Black Americans, which has been proposed as a way to repair the loss of opportunity and wealth that resulted from slavery and systemic racism that continues today.
“Yes, period, hard stop,” Jodeh said. “I think that African Americans in America sit at a junction of saying, how can we set the tone for how marginalized people, how oppressed people should move forward in their lives, and quite frankly, how the oppressor, pay for what they’ve done, figuratively and literally.”
Jodeh represents House District 41. Her Republican opponent, Stephanie Hancock, who is Black, expressed doubt about reparations. “At the end of the day, who’s going to pay for it,” she said.
Democratic candidates are favored in the district by 31 percentage points, according to a nonpartisan analysis by state redistricting staff last year.
When candidates were asked what they would do for Black Coloradans, Hancock said, “It’s important for us in the Black community, and all communities, not to wait for the government to give you a handout, because it’s not coming. You need to step up and step out on your own, that’s the way I’ve lived my life … My commitment, being a Black person, to the Black community, is to continue being Black and continue to help be a voice and be a lighthouse in a dark place.”
She added, “As long as we continue to stay fractured and separate then the enemy wins, and we have to beat the enemy back by working together.”
In response to a question — “Do you believe that a woman should be able to make her own health care decisions?” — implicitly about access to abortion, Ganahl said, “Absolutely, I’ve supported women throughout my life,” but she did not specifically address abortion.
Ganahl left the forum early to attend another event, but when asked about abortion access in Colorado by a Newsline reporter after he participated in the forum, Moore did address the subject.
“I say put it on the ballot,” Moore said. “Let the people have an opportunity to vote on what they believe the right abortion law should be, and let’s see what they say. Right now, they haven’t been asked.”
He declined to say what he personally thinks the law should say.
The Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade, which federally guaranteed the right to get an abortion. Democrats in the Colorado Legislature this year passed, and the governor signed, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which ensures abortion access in Colorado. A future Republican majority in the Legislature could repeal that law.
State Rep. Mike Weissman, a Democrat from Aurora, who participated in the panel with Jodeh, said abortion access in the state is still vulnerable as long as the protections are merely statutory.
“It deserves to be in the Colorado Constitution,” he said. “I believe that abortion rights advocates will bring forward a measure in 2024 to protect this right in the Constitution. I look forward to supporting that.”