Election season is heating up! The Sopris Sun is bringing you interviews from candidates in contested races ahead of the June 28 primary. This week, we focus on Colorado’s gubernatorial race. To begin, incumbent Governor Jared Polis, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary, reflects on his first term and why he deserves a second. Then, Republican challengers Greg Lopez and Heidi Ganahl respond to a few basic questions. All candidates answered these questions in writing.

Governor Jared Polis (Democrat)

What do you consider were your biggest accomplishments and toughest challenges during your first term? 

It’s been a heavy challenge to lead the state through its darkest hours, including the COVID pandemic and three of the largest wildfires in the history of our state; and it has also been an honor to dedicate myself to helping Coloradans make it through these tough times. The last two years have taught me that leadership and judgment matter. 

Today, the state has experienced one of the lowest death rates, highest vaccination rates, shortest shut downs and quickest economic recoveries. That doesn’t happen by accident. It happens with data-based decisions, pragmatic solutions and putting Colorado first. Even through these tough times, we’ve made significant progress on major issues facing our state — providing free preschool and all-day kindergarten, lowering prescription costs (like insulin), taking aggressive climate action, cutting taxes for seniors and small businesses and providing tax rebates for every taxpayer. We have more hard work ahead and, together, we will keep moving Colorado forward.

In retrospect, would you have done anything differently? 

The COVID-19 pandemic presented us with new, unforeseen challenges that called for decisive action. My administration followed the data at every turn to save lives and keep our economy moving forward. Now, we are using the lessons of the past few years to better prepare Colorado for future crises and ensure that our state is moving forward. 

What are the biggest challenges Coloradans face today?

I just wrapped up a statewide tour talking with Coloradans in every corner of our state and what I heard clearly is that Coloradans want to get some stability back in their lives. We are working fast to address challenges that have been made worse by the pandemic, including rising costs. We are reducing taxes and fees so that you can hold on to more of your hard-earned money. To provide immediate relief, we are sending rebate checks of at least $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families to every Colorado taxpayer this summer and are lowering property taxes for homeowners starting next year. 

We are also working to make Colorado a better, more affordable home no matter where you live by taking actions to lower the cost of living, strengthen small businesses, grow good jobs and improve our education system. We still have hard challenges and hard work ahead, Colorado, but I am confident that our brightest days are in front of us.

What are your top goals if re-elected? 

My administration will continue our focused work of cutting costs and making Colorado a place that everyone can afford to enjoy and love. That means growing good jobs, supporting small businesses, cutting fees and taxes and working with cities to deliver real affordable housing solutions. 

We are working to ensure that Colorado is one of the safest states with strong communities that offer opportunities for people to live the life they want to live. 

Thirdly, we remain committed to our aggressive climate goals. We are working to improve our air quality for Coloradans by spurring the transition to lower cost renewable energy and improving Colorado’s response to wildfires and other climate threats. 

Do you see bipartisanship as a hindrance or necessity in government?

Here in Colorado, we seek opportunities to reach across the aisle. In fact, 95% of the bills I have signed as your governor have received bipartisan support. This includes working closely with Republicans and Democrats to balance the state budget every year, while cutting taxes, improving education and building up a record $1 billion rainy day fund. In Colorado, we work hard to rise above partisan politics and get good things done.

Republican Greg Lopez

Lopez has lived in Colorado for 34 years. At 27-years-old, he was elected mayor of Parker, where he simultaneously served as the city manager. He served as the Colorado director of the U.S. Small Business Administration and president of Denver’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He currently resides in Elizabeth with his wife, with whom he raised two children.

What made you decide to run for Colorado governor?

I realized our state was in trouble a few years ago and that is why I initially ran in 2018 for governor, but the time was not right. I am a true grassroots Republican — not establishment and not part of any elite. I am running for this office because I love our state. I have the right background to know how to make a difference and I want to serve the people of this state. In other words, I want the peoples’ voice to be the voice in the governor’s office. 

Have you always been part of the Republican party?

No, I was born and raised a Democrat. I was even elected mayor of Parker as a Democrat. However, I realized that my values and beliefs were much more aligned with the Republican party, so I changed parties because of my values and beliefs — which include limited government, less centralization, equal opportunity and a conservative approach to social issues like protecting life in the womb and our second amendment rights. 

What are your top three goals if elected? 

Three top goals for my administration are: the economic health of Colorado; improving our schools so that they are institutions that prepare our children for success and a happy life; and reducing crime in Colorado by 30% in two years by empowering our police departments. 

What aspects of Polis’ first term as governor did you appreciate?

It is truly difficult to appreciate a governor who has consistently signed bills that have directly hurt so many Colorado families. I cannot appreciate the businesses lost, the mental health crisis, the homeless crisis, the crime crisis, the environmental crisis, the educational crisis we now find ourselves in because of our current governor’s policies. Elite, out-of-touch solutions and endless executive orders have only served to exacerbate these problems. (welloflife.com) Whether due to COVID-19 or a failing national economy, it reveals an ineffective approach to finding solutions. We are losing our economy, our education, our medical freedom and privacy and our Colorado identity. We are beginning to resemble nothing more than California’s younger sibling.

Republican Heidi Ganahl 

Ganahl has been a proud Coloradoan for 44 years, since moving here at age 12. She founded the multi-million dollar Camp BowWow pet care franchise and the BowWow Buddies Foundation which has found homes for over 10,000 dogs. She started two charity programs, Moms Fight Back and the Fight Back Foundation, both of which serve children in crises. She currently serves as the University of Colorado Regent after being elected in 2016.

What made you decide to run for Colorado governor?

I am running for my children and all children and families living here in Colorado. Our state is headed in the wrong direction under our current leadership. Gas prices, the cost of living and crime are all rising out of control. I need to be a voice for change so that my kids and all kids in our state have access to the same American dream I have lived in our beautiful state.

Have you always been part of the Republican party? 

Yes. The Republican party stands for the same core beliefs I do — state rights, limited government, personal liberties, lower taxes, law and order and a strong support for our military/defense. I will govern with the premise that I trust the people of Colorado to know what is best for their lives, their families and their business. Government does not have all the answers and should not be run as if it does.

What are your top three goals if elected?

I will lower our cost of living by reigning in spending and the out of control growth of our government, as well as getting our energy industry back to work. I will address our soaring crime rate by returning to law and order and restoring truth in sentencing, firing those on the parole board who will not hold criminals accountable and supporting our law enforcement. I will make education a priority so we no longer have 60% of our children reading, writing and doing math below grade level. I will do that by giving power back to parents through transparency in our education system and true school choice that allows parents to ensure their children are learning in the right environment (public, private, charter schools, etc.).

What aspects of Polis’ first term as governor did you appreciate?

Jared Polis needs to be honest and transparent about his first three years in office. He is attempting to reinvent himself in this election year. Coloradans are not fooled. Like me, Jared Polis is a successful CEO. He needs to use that knowledge to create a more business friendly environment in our state.