Colorado Politics recalls stories that defined an unusual midterm | 2022 IN REVIEW | News

Colorado Politics recalls stories that defined an unusual midterm | 2022 IN REVIEW | News

Bookended by tragedies and buffeted by fiercely partisan battles as the midterm elections approached, 2022 saw Colorado begin to move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and the shattered lives, economy and customs in its wake.

The state’s political year was framed by bombshell events outside its borders — from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade — and an array of uniquely Colorado personalities who drove the procession of triumphs and disappointments as the planet made another trek around the sun.

Enraged voters were frustrated this year as inflation hit historic levels and crime and opioid overdoses dominated headlines, but until the November election it wasn’t clear which party would bear the brunt of their anger — the Democrats, who held the reins at both the national and state levels, or the Republicans, whose alignment with former President Donald Trump had helped sink the party’s candidates in previous Colorado elections.

Some of Colorado’s biggest political stories happened in a flash, some took place in a single day, and still other stories played out across weeks and months, but they all left a mark.

In rough chronological order, here are 22 stories that defined the state’s political landscape in 2022.

Marshall fire casts grim shadow

The Marshall Fire engulfs a home in Louisville, Colo., Thursday Dec. 30, 2021 as crews worked through the night battling the blaze that had destroyed more than 500 home in Boulder County. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

The year dawned on a somber note, with Colorado grieving as embers from the most destructive wildfire in state history still smoldered. The Dec. 30, 2021, Marshall fire ripped through subdivisions in unincorporated Boulder County, Louisville and Superior, fanned by hurricane-force winds and fueled by vegetation left parched by drought, killing two people, charring more than 6,000 acres and destroying more than 1,100 homes and businesses.

As the year drew to a close, authorities had yet to determine the fire’s cause, with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Department saying nearly a dozen possibilities were under investigation, from a trash fire set by residents at a remote community to underground fires fed by remnants of coal mines.

The devastating blaze and its aftermath drew a visit from President Joe Biden, who toured ash-blanketed neighborhoods and met with displaced residents, and spurred legislation at the state and national level.

The General Assembly, which convened just over a week after the fire, passed a series of bills in response, including legislation to increase insurance coverage for wildfire damage, build up resources to respond to natural disasters and support forest health and wildfire mitigation. In Congress, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, who represents the area and is a founding co-chair of the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus, shepherded a raft of legislation through the House and helped steer funding to the state to help prepare for future wildfires and rebuild from the Marshall fire.

Perlmutter announces retirement from Congress

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U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter discusses his decision not to seek a ninth term after 15 years in Congress on Jan. 14, 2022, at his office in Lakewood.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter threw Colorado’s political scene for a loop just over a week into the new year with the Arvada Democrat’s announcement that he had decided against running for another term representing the 7th Congressional District, which covered suburbs north and west of Denver before redistricting.

At 68, the attorney and former state lawmaker said he was looking forward to the next chapter of his life after eight terms in the House, where he played key roles advancing space exploration, reforming the nation’s financial system, modernizing how Congress operates and building a banking framework for legal marijuana businesses.

Already a targeted seat — the district’s new configuration was considered slightly more competitive but still leaned toward Democratic candidates — the suddenly open contest drew interest from potential candidates on both sides of the aisle.

State Sen. Brittany Pettersen, a Lakewood Democrat, quickly consolidated support and cruised to her party’s nomination, but Republicans faced a crowded primary field. Newcomer Erik Aadland won the GOP nod over self-funding economist Tim Reichert and former legislative candidate and avid Trump supporter Laurel Imer. Pettersen, who outspent Aadland by nearly two-to-one, cruised to a 15-point win in November.

COVID-19 deaths fall after omicron peak

Colorado began the year still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, with hospitalizations and deaths peaking in January as the omicron variant swept through the state nearly two years after the virus first struck the state.

In mid-January, the state surpassed 11,000 deaths from the virus, reaching the milestone exactly a month after passing 10,000 deaths, though after peaking a month later — with a daily average of 56 deaths among state residents from the virus — the grim numbers began to plummet, even as the highly contagious variant surged through Colorado’s population. By year’s end, officials counted roughly 10 COVID deaths a day, on average, bringing the total felled by the pandemic in Colorado to 13,859, according to the New York Times.

In Colorado, officials said that high levels of immunity — from omicron’s wide spread and from high vaccination rates — helped insulate the state’s population even as an even more contagious variant took over later in the year.

Through the course of the pandemic, Colorado has one of the lowest per-capita death rates in the country, according to Statista, lower than 41 other states at 240 deaths per 100,000 residents. By comparison, Arizona and Mississippi topped the ranking with 439 deaths per 100,000 residents.

Boebert heckles Biden’s State of the Union

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Republican U.S. Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, left, Byron Donalds of Florida and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia stand with fellow lawmakers as they listen to President Joe Biden deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol on March 1, 2022, in Washington.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert grabbed more than her usual share of headlines in March when she and fellow Republican and MAGA enthusiast U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia heckled Biden during the State of the Union address when the president was starting to talk about the death of his son.

The vocal Second Amendment advocate — Boebert owned a since-shuttered gun-themed restaurant in Rifle — drew boos from her fellow lawmakers when she interrupted the president’s speech in House chambers while Biden voiced support for legislation to aid veterans who were exposed to toxic fumes from military burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As Biden described the flag-draped coffin that awaited veterans struck down by cancer — including his son Beau, a retired Army major and former Delaware attorney general, who died of brain cancer in 2015 — Boebert shouted, “you put them in, 13 of them,” referring to the U.S. soldiers killed months earlier during the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, a Centennial Democrat and decorated Army Ranger veteran, called Boebert’s outburst “certainly a stain on her,” adding that it demonstrated “the level of her depravity, which is deep,” but his Republican colleague stood firm.

When Biden said flag draped coffins, I couldn’t stay silent. I told him directly he did it. He put 13 in there,” she tweeted. “Our heroic servicemen and women deserve so much better.”

Tina Peters indicted on felony counts

 In early March, a Mesa County grand jury indicted Tina Peters, the Western Slope county’s elected clerk and recorder and a Republican candidate for secretary of state, on multiple felony charges culminating a months-long investigation into allegations Peters had conspired to tamper with voting equipment.

Among the state’s most vocal proponents of the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, Peters has steadfastly denied she broke the law, insisting she was only trying to ferret out evidence of election fraud.

The previous summer, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, ordered Mesa County to replace its election equipment after secure passwords and copies of its election management software appeared online and later prevailed in lawsuits that barred Peters from administering both the 2021 off-year election and the 2022 elections.

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The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office booking photo for Tina Peters, July 21, 2022

The state GOP greeted the charges — Peters faces seven felony and three misdemeanor counts, including criminal impersonation, identity theft and official misconduct — with a call for Peters to suspend her primary campaign to be the state’s top election official while under indictment, in a statement from Kristi Burton Brown, the state Republican chair, and two other statewide GOP officers.

Peters refused, calling the statement a “knee-jerk overreaction” that proved Burton Brown and her cohorts were in league with the Democrats, who she said wanted to prevent Griswold’s strongest potential opponent from winning the GOP nomination to challenge the Democrat in November.

In June, after winning top-line designation on the primary ballot at the GOP state assembly, Peters lost the race for the nomination by a wide margin to former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson, who based her campaign on the contention that Colorado’s election system is secure. Peters faces trial in March on the charges. Two former deputies have since taken plea agreements and agreed to testify against Peters, who is also the subject of a related federal investigation, as well as state ethics and campaign finance charges.

General Assembly passes abortion rights measure

Polis signs bill enshrining abortion rights in Colorado

Joined by two dozen Democratic lawmakers and advocates during the 2022 state legislative session, Gov. Jared Polis signs into law the Reproductive Health Equity Act, a bill proponents say affirms the right to abortion in Colorado. (Photo: Marianne Goodland)

Ahead of a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed legislation which went beyond the abortion rights established in the landmark 1973 decision and subsequent rulings.

The Reproductive Health Equity Act passed the Democratic-run legislature following a record nearly 24-hour debate led by Republican lawmakers, who argued against the bill, which guarantees in state law the right to choose an abortion or carry a pregnancy to term. Derided by opponents as a license for “unbridled abortion,” the bill also set in place Colorado’s reputation as a “sanctuary state” for abortion providers and patients amid uncertainty over attempts to ban the procedure in other states.

Organizers on both sides of the debate say they plan to bring the question to voters in the form of state constitutional amendments in future elections.

Hardliners dominate GOP assembly

Ron Hanks Joe O'Dea

In this file photo, state Rep. Ron Hanks and Joe O’Dea, Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Colorado, debate on May 21, 2022, at Grizzly Rose in Denver

Republican delegates to Colorado’s state assembly on April 9 handed wins to Peters and other candidates for statewide office who insisted that Trump won the 2020 presidential election, despite overwhelming evidence that he lost, fair and square.

State Rep. Ron Hanks, a fiercely conservative freshman lawmaker from Cañon City, prevented five other U.S. Senate candidates from making the Republican primary ballot after declaring that Trump won reelection to the presidency before a cheering crowd at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs. Business owner Joe O’Dea, the only Republican to bypass the assembly in hopes of challenging two-term U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, also qualified for the primary.

Delegates also delivered a win to Peters, giving the embattled county clerk 61% of the vote, ahead of nonprofit head and first-time candidate Michael O’Donnell, who also made the primary ballot for secretary of state. They faced Anderson, who got on by petition.

Former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, who finished in third place in the 2018 gubernatorial primary, won top-line designation for the same office at the GOP’s assembly after promising to pardon Peters if she winds up convicted on the state charges she faces. Lopez finished slightly ahead of Heidi Ganahl, an at-large University of Colorado regent and the only Colorado Republican then holding statewide office, who qualified for the primary at the assembly but had also already made the ballot by petition.

The results followed failed efforts by some Republicans to cancel the party’s participation in this year’s June primary, arguing that allowing unaffiliated voters to vote in the primary wrongly prevented Colorado Republicans from choosing their favored nominees. 

Fentanyl bill passes legislature


Gov. Jared Polis, center, shakes hands with minority leader Sen. John Cooke after signing the HB22-1326 Fentanyl Accountability And Prevention bill on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, on the west steps of the Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Denver Gazette)

In the biggest bill of the legislative session, state lawmakers hiked criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of fentanyl, the highly potent synthetic opioid that has ravaged the state in recent years and was thrust to the forefront by the February deaths of five Commerce City residents allegedly due to fentanyl overdoses.

The bill, which also directs funding to treatment and education programs for opioid addicts, boosted possession of between 1 and 4 grams of fentanyl from a misdemeanor to a felony — revising a change made to state law in 2019 — but drew criticism and lost one of its original Republican sponsors when lawmakers added language to allow suspects to argue that they believe a substance didn’t contain any fentanyl or other synthetic opioid, dropping their charge to a misdemeanor.

Law enforcement and other officials argued that possession of any amount of fentanyl should draw felony charges, but advocates from the harm-reduction community said that the bill would only lead to incarcerating addicts rather than treating them.

Colorado River shortage declared amid historic drought

Colorado River Users Western Drought

A buoy sits high and dry on cracked earth previously under the waters of Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on June 28 near Boulder City, Nev.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation declared in June that the the seven states in the Colorado River Basin — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — must reduce their water use from the river by millions of acre feet next year or face drastic restrictions as the river system grapples with a historic drought in its 23rd year.

If the seven states failed to agree on a plan, the feds will be forced to impose reductions on the states, the bureau’s commissioner warned a Senate panel at a hearing on the drought.

The 1,450-mile long river, which flows from just west of the Continental Divide in Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico, supplies water to nearly 40 million people and vast acres of farmland across the American West. The level of the river’s reservoirs — including Lake Mead, behind the Hoover Dam, and Lake Powell, created by the Glen Canyon Dam — have fallen dramatically since 2000, due to an enduring drought that research shows is exacerbated by climate change.

“The science of the system across the West and especially in the Colorado River basin indicate one of immediate action,” Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton said. “But in the Colorado River basin, more conservation and demand management are needed in addition to the actions already underway.”

High court overturns Roe v. Wade

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Protestor Lisa Xochitl Vallejos raises her fist during an abortion rights protest outside the Colorado state Capitol building in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade on Friday, June 24, 2022, in Denver. 

The U.S. Supreme Court scrambled the board just days before votes were counted in Colorado’s primary with the anticipated ruling in Dobbs, a Mississippi abortion cases to overturn Roe v. Wade, sending shockwaves that reverberated through November by throwing the question back to the states.

The majority opinion — virtually identical to the draft leaked more than a month earlier — helped reframe the fall election as a choice between the two major parties’ positions on abortion and other rights, rather than as a referendum on an unpopular president and the Democrats’ control of state government and Congress, flipping the typical midterm equation on its head, analysts said after the election.

Most Republicans and their anti-abortion allies cheered when the long-sought decision landed, saying it would energize abortion foes, but Democrats and abortion rights advocates sounded the alarm and suggested the ruling could motivate voters in ways it handed in previous elections.

Voters in Colorado, which was among the first states to legalize abortion in the years before Roe, have consistently rejected attempts to restrict the procedure. The day after the Dobbs ruling was announced, thousands of protesters marched in support of abortion rights in downtown Denver, chanting, “We won’t go back. We will fight back.”

“We will not stand idly by & allow the court to strip away our rights like this,” U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat, said. “We will continue to fight this with everything we’ve got!”

Republican strategist Dick Wadhams, a former chairman of the Colorado GOP, predicted that Democrats were “overestimating the potential effects” of the decision, suggesting that the issue wouldn’t influence voters bothered by inflation, high gas prices and a rising crime rate.

Establishment Republicans, incumbents win primaries


Colorado GOP gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl, right, hugs her campaign communications director Lexi Swearingen after the race was called for her during an election watch party at Wide Open Saloon on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Sedalia, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Denver Gazette)

The Republican statewide candidates who petitioned onto the ballot posted wins in the June 28 primary, defeating the more conservative candidates who made their way onto the ballot via the party’s state assembly. The two top-ticket wins — by O’Dea in the U.S. Senate race and Ganahl in the gubernatorial race — came despite heavy spending by national Democrats to promote their opponents, Hanks and Lopez, respectively, as “too extreme” for Colorado in millions of dollars worth of ads meant to promote candidates seen as easier for Democrats to beat in November.

Along with Anderson’s win over Peters and O’Donnell in the secretary of state race, the results encouraged the more traditional wing of the GOP, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who blessed O’Dea as the “perfect candidate” for Colorado in a year when Republicans were expected to run the table in competitive races nationally, as traditionally happens in midterm elections.

Peters, who finished just barely ahead of O’Donnell but trailed Anderson by 15 percentage points, disputed the results and sought a statewide recount, eventually ponying up roughly $250,000 to pay for it, but the results were unchanged.

In congressional races, the state’s three incumbent Republicans rebuffed primary challenges by wide margins. Boebert defeated state Sen. Don Coram of Montrose, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn prevailed against three opponents, including state Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs; and U.S. Rep. Ken Buck easily survived a challenge from newcomer Robert Lewis.

Priola switches parties

Priola Capitol recall

In this file photo, state Rep. Kevin Priola, D-Henderson, speaks on Military, Veterans and MIA/POW Appreciation Day on Feb. 6, 2020, at the Colorado Capitol in Denver. Priola is facing a recall campaign after switching parties from Republican to Democrat on Aug. 22, 2022.

Long an outlier in GOP legislative caucuses, term-limited state Sen. Kevin Priola of Henderson angered Republicans and delighted Democrats when he announced on Aug. 22 that he was switching parties midway through his second and final term in the state Senate, virtually ensuring that Democrats would retain the majority in the chamber after the November election.

Priola, who served four terms in the state House before his election to the Senate, said he decided to abandon the GOP because of the party’s stance on attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and what he described as Republicans’ refusal to take action on climate change.

“Coloradans cannot afford for the leaders to give credence to election conspiracies and climate denialism,” Priola wrote. “Simply put, we need Democrats in charge because our planet and our democracy depends on it.”

A Republican-aligned group immediately launched a recall effort, citing legislation sponsored by Priola, whose support often allowed Democrats to label bills bipartisan when Priola was the only Republican on board. The recall campaign hit a snag, however, amid questions over whether it would be conducted among the voters who elected Priola in 2020 in Democratic-leaning Senate District 25 or if the decision would be made by voters in the more heavily Republican Senate District 13, which Priola will represent following redistricting. Ultimately, the state Supreme Court decided Priola can’t be recalled by the electorate in the redrawn district until after the next General Assembly is sworn in, so organizers halted their efforts.

Biden makes Camp Hale a national monument

Joe Biden designates Camp Hale - Continental Divide National Monument

President Joe Biden shakes the hand of 10th Mountain Division veterans Robert Shoyer, center, and Francis Lovett Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, during the dedication of Camp Hale – Continental Divide National Monument at the site of the World War II home of the 10th Mountain Division, the U.S. Army’s first and only mountain infantry division. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Biden made his second visit of the year to Colorado in October to designate Camp Hale, near Leadville, a national monument, the first such designation of his presidency.

Joined by two surviving members of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, a World War II infantry division that specialized in winter warfare on mountainous terrain, Biden hailed the site where they trained as “treasured lands tell the story of America.” After training at Camp Hale, many veterans returned to the state after the war and helped establish Colorado’s ski industry.

Promoted for years by state Democrats — including Bennet, Polis, Neguse and U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper, who were all on hand — the creation of the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument protects 53,804 acres of wildlife habitats and historic buildings. The designation was part of the long-simmering Colorado Outdoor Recreation Economy (CORE) Act, which would protect more than 400,000 acres in the central part of the state and has passed the House five times but stalled in the Senate under Republican opposition.

Roberts shrugs off criticism of high court

John Roberts

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts answers questions during an appearance at Belmont University Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., told an audience of lawyers and judges in Colorado Springs that recent controversial court decisions — including the Dobbs ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade — hadn’t endangered the court’s legitimacy.

“The court has always decided controversial cases and decisions have always been subject to intense criticism, and that is entirely appropriate,” Roberts said at a conference at the Broadmoor sponsored by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. “But I don’t understand the connection between the opinions people disagree with and the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.”

Other decisions by the Roberts court this term made it harder to enact gun restrictions and placed new constraints on the ability of government agencies to issue regulations.

Roberts made the remarks in the wake of recent surveys that found public confidence in the court had fallen to its lowest point in decades but pushed back on the notion that popular opinion should have a bearing on the court’s work.

“You don’t want public opinion to be the guide of what the appropriate decision is,” he said. “Lately the criticism is phrased in terms of ‘Because of these opinions, it calls into question the legitimacy of the court.’ I think it’s a mistake to view those criticisms in that way.”

Democratic ticket sweeps to ballot box wins

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Cheers erupt at the Democratic watch party as U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet gives his victory speech on election night at the Art Hotel on Tues., Nov. 8, 2022. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

When the votes were counted in Colorado on Nov. 8, Democrats won every statewide race by double digits and increased their majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly to levels not seen since the 1930s during FDR’s administration, dashing state Republicans’ hopes for the comeback they’d been counting on in what had looked like a favorable midterm.

Polis won a second term by the widest margin in statewide races, defeating Ganahl by nearly 20 percentage points — Coloradans tend to reelect their governors, often in blowouts — but his fellow Democrats also notched wins by margins that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, when the state was considered among the most competitive battlegrounds in the country. Bennet beat O’Dea by nearly 15 percentage points, Griswold trounced Anderson by 13 percentage points, Attorney General Phil Weiser prevailed over District Attorney John Kellner by 11 percentage points and in the lowest-profile of the statewide races, State Treasurer Dave Young fended off former state Rep. Lang Sias by 10 percentage points.

For the state GOP, it was an “extinction-level event,” defeated state Rep. Colin Larson, a Littleton Republican, opined after the shellacking.

According to an exit poll conducted by Colorado-based pollster Andrew Baumann for Democratic firm Global Strategy Group, Democrats won over voters who decided Republicans were extremists with misplaced priorities, including the party’s opposition to abortion rights, fealty to Trump and embrace of election conspiracy theories. Voters also liked the Democrats’ record of accomplishment, the poll found, fueling their candidates’ margins among unaffiliated, non-white, college-educated, white and suburban women voters.

Voters OK multiple ballot measures

Voters approved a slew of ballot measures in the November election, including an initiative to legalize psychedelic mushrooms and similar substances and one to cut the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.4%.

Other propositions that passed dedicate state revenue to an affordable housing fund, pay for free meals for public school students, allow grocery and convince stores to sell wine, require state income tax-related questions to show how the change would affect taxpayers at different income levels.

Voters also passed a pair of amendments to the state constitution referred to the ballot by the legislature. The first provides judges for Colorado’s new judicial district, which springs into existence in two years when Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties split off from Arapahoe County, while the other expands the state’s homestead property tax exemption to cover the surviving spouses of military service members who die on duty or from service-related injuries or disease.

Two ballot measures that would have changed the state’s liquor code — one to allow certain businesses to obtain more liquor licenses, another to let third-party services deliver alcohol — failed despite an expensive ad campaign funded mostly by out-of-state interests.

Caraveo elected in Colorado’s new congressional district

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U.S. Rep.-elect Yadira Caraveo, a Thornton Democrat, left, smiles as she arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 14, 2022. 

State Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a Thornton Democrat, won Colorado’s new 8th Congressional District by a slim 0.7 percentage point margin, defeating state Sen. Barb Kirkmeyer, a former longtime Weld County commissioner from Brighton.

The district, covering Adams County suburbs north of Denver and stretching north along the Interstate 25 corridor to Greeley in Weld County, was the most expensive congressional battleground in the state this year, drawing more than $25 million in candidate and outside spending.

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Caraveo becomes the first Latina and first pediatrician — or physician of any kind — to represent Colorado in Congress. Her win, along with Pettersen’s in the open 7th CD seat, also brings the number of women in the state’s congressional delegation to four and gives Democrats seven of the state’s 10 federal representatives and senators.

Boebert wins second term by a nose

Congress Boebert

In this Jan. 4, 2021, file photo, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Rifle Republican, center, joins other freshman Republican House members for a group photo at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

In one of the election’s biggest surprises, Boebert hung onto her 3rd Congressional District seat by a razor-thin 546-vote margin after trailing Democratic challenger Adam Frisch, an Aspen business owner and former city official, for days in a vote that was close enough to trigger a state-mandated recount, which affirmed the initial results with only a handful of votes’ difference.

Frisch, who emerged from a close three-way primary, ran as a centrist, pledging to bring an end to the “angertainment” style he accused the incumbent of practicing and winning endorsements from several prominent Republicans in the Western Slope-based district, including state Sen. Don Coram, the Montrose Republican who failed to unseat Boebert in the primary.

Boebert stuck to her guns throughout the campaign, portraying Frisch as a puppet of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and attacking her opponent for his record on the Aspen City Council.

Club Q shooting

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Mourners gather outside Club Q to visit the memorial, which has been moved from a sidewalk outside of police tape that was surrounding the club, on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, in Colorado Springs.

Just before midnight on Nov. 19, an assailant clad in body armor opened fire with an AR-15-style assault rifle inside Club Q, a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub, killing five people and wounding more than 20 before being subdued and detained by patrons.

The mass shooting devastated a state too familiar with mass shootings and outraged a community already reeling amid a national surge in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and violence.

Killed in the attack, which commenced minutes before the start of National Transgender Remembrance Day, were Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Raymond Vance.

The suspect, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, whose lawyers say identifies as non-binary, faces 305 criminal charges, including multiple counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and bias-motivated hate crimes.

As details about the suspect’s past encounters with law enforcement and the court system have emerged — including once expressing a hope to become “the next mass shooter” and a desire to “go out in a blaze” — gun violence prevention advocates and others have questioned whether officials responded aggressively enough to an incident last year, when Aldrich was arrested at the Colorado Springs home of relatives after claiming to have a bomb and planning to use it. A judge later dismissed kidnapping and felony menacing charges against Aldrich when prosecutors said they were unable to produce critical witnesses to testify.

Polis and Democratic lawmakers say they plan to revisit the Colorado’s red flag law, which permits family members and law enforcement personnel to petition a judge to remove firearms from someone deemed a danger to themself or others but wasn’t pursued in Aldrich’s earlier case.

Activists call for revamped state GOP

Tina Peters Save Colo Project

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters addresses supporters on Wednesday at a press conference held in Greenwood Village by self-described grassroots activists who say they want to restore conservative leadership of the Colorado Republican Party.

Republican activists gathered in a parking lot across the street from Colorado Republican Party headquarters in Greenwood Village on Nov. 30 to call for grassroots activists to take control of the state GOP in the wake of the party’s losses in the general election.

“Our Republican Party leadership has failed us,” said Aaron Wood, an organizer of the event, which featured a dozen speakers representing some of the GOP’s most conservative groups. He added, “We are simply regular people who are sick of losing everything, feeling unsafe and watching the destruction of Colorado under the Democrat governor, Jared Polis.”

Multiple speakers said state Republicans need to withdraw from the state’s primary system and instead nominate candidates via the caucus and assembly process, a move some Republicans have attempted without success in recent cycles.

Among those who took a turn at the microphone was Peters, who accused current party leadership of “treachery” and declared: “We are not a blue state. We’re not even a purple state. We are a red state.”

Burton Brown announced in mid-December that she won’t seek a second stint helming the GOP this spring, when the party’s state central committee meets to elect officers to two-year terms.

At press time, two candidates for the chair position had emerged: Lopez, the former gubernatorial candidate, and Casper Stockham, who mounted four failed congressional campaigns in recent years.

Space Command nears final destination

U.S. Space Command

U.S. Space Command, at its current temporary home in Colorado Springs.

The location of the permanent headquarters of Space Command, the newest branch of the military, remained up in the air through the year with a decision pending as 2022 neared its conclusion.

For nearly two years, the site has been in limbo, since the Trump administration made a surprise announcement in its final days that its temporary headquarters in Colorado Springs would move to Huntsville, Alabama, overruling the military’s recommendation that it stay put.

Led by U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn and the state’s two senators, Bennet and Hickenlooper, Colorado asked the incoming Biden administration to reconsider the move, suggesting that Trump made the last-minute decision solely for political reasons, to reward a state that voted for him and punish one that didn’t — a contention confirmed by Trump when he admitted in a radio interview that he ” “singlehandedly” approved the move.

Politics aside, the Colorado lawmakers have argued, uprooting the command from its provision location at Peterson Air Force Base would be unnecessarily costly, take too long and threaten national security.

Two federal reviews released earlier this year by the congressional Government Accountability Office and the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General determined the decision was flawed but didn’t recommend what to do, leaving the decision to the Biden administration. A decision is expected imminently.

Coloradans win top House posts

Neguse infrastructure vote

From left, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., and Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., arrive outside the Capitol to speak to reporters as the House prepares to vote on the long-stalled $1 trillion infrastructure bill, in Washington, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. Infighting between progressives and moderates had once again sidetracked the pillar of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.

Members of Colorado’s congressional delegation ended the year poised to assume powerful positions when the 118th Congress takes office on Jan. 3.

In only his third term, Neguse will become the first Coloradan to assume a House leadership position in more than 80 years after the 38-year-old was elected to run the Democrats’ messaging operation as chairman of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

Boebert was elected in December by fellow Republicans to serve in the next Congress on the 23-member Republican Policy Committee as a representative of the region that includes Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. The committee advises the GOP conference on policy positions and legislative action.

While it won’t be official until the new Congress convenes, Lamborn will almost certainly chair the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, which has jurisdiction over military and Department of Energy policies including nuclear weapons, nuclear arms control, missiles and missile defense and space operations.