LAKEWOOD – The election season officially kicked off Saturday with a bang at several political party assemblies – few as competitive as the Republican House and Senate events that produced three hot legislative contests in Jefferson County.
Rep. Justin Everett, whose excessive absences in the legislature irked Republican House leadership made headlines last week, might have felt ambushed when challenger J. Loren Bauman was nominated at the Republican House District 22 assembly.
Everett beat Bauman in 2012, but failed Saturday to keep him off the primary ballot. Everett couldn’t even vote for himself because he arrived too late to be credentialed as a delegate.
Relatively unknown candidates Laura Woods and Tony Sanchez, backed by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), won top line on the ballot in Senate Districts 19 and 22, respectively. The duo got a helping hand from RMGO that fired off a flyer claiming their opponents are “anti-gun” rights.
“WARNING: Not all Republican candidates in Senate District 19 are Pro-Gun,” blared RMGO’s handout to delegates. Woods was deemed “PRO-GUN” in bold blue letters; Republican contender Lang Sias was declared “anti-gun” in blazing red print.
Sias, a pilot who served 27 years in the military, lost his bid to unseat Sen. Evie Hudak (D-Westminster) in 2012. Hudak, whose demeaning comments to a young rape victim during a contentious gun-control legislation hearing made national news, resigned to avoid being recalled last year.
RMGO lauded Woods for working to recall Hudak, and asserted Sias refused to even sign a recall petition.
“Let’s clear something up. My opponent thinks I should be disqualified because I did not participate in the Hudak recall,” Sias told the assembly delegates.
“I did not feel it was right for me to be standing up there and asking for a do-over (election),” he said. Countering the anti- gun rights assertion, Sias cited his National Rifle Association (NRA) endorsement and chastised RMGO for the smear.
“I say shame on you!” said Sias. “Keep your dirty politics out of Jefferson County.”
Woods described herself as a “liberty-minded patriot” and citizen activist who will fight government “intrusion into your lives, your businesses, your homes.”
She touted endorsements by RMGO, Ken Clark of Grassroots Radio, former Sen. Dave Schultheis (R-Colorado Springs) and Sen. George Rivera (R-Pueblo) who won election to replace recalled Democrat Sen. Angela Giron.
Woods received 53 percent of the delegate votes, squeaking past Sias who garnered 47 percent. The primary victor will face Sen. Rachel Zenzinger (D-Arvada), appointed to Hudak’s seat, in the general election.
In Senate District 22, RMGO issued the same “WARNING” flyer attacking Republican candidate Mario Nicolais and claiming he is anti-gun because he refused to fill out their survey.
“I am not anti-gun. I would protect the 2nd Amendment,” declared Nicolais, a constitutional attorney who grew up in Jefferson County.
“This is my NRA lifetime member card. This is my concealed carry (permit) card,” he said, waving the pro-gun rights proof.
Calling the RMGO hit piece “nasty,” Nicolais shrugged and said, “In politics you need to laugh these things off.”
Nicolais is endorsed by Jeffco School Board President Ken Witt, Laura Carno, who led the successful recall of Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs), and former Rep. Ken Summers who lost his Republican Senate District 22 race against Democrat Sen. Andy Kerr in 2012.
A self-described “clear conservative,” Sanchez said Republicans need to focus on the real problem, “progressive liberalism. We want to keep government out of our lives.”
Sanchez, a former Social Service manager in California, said he moved to Colorado a few years ago to escape the liberal and oppressive politics on the West Coast. During the 2012 election cycle, he canvassed precincts on behalf the Libre Initiative, a nonprofit to advance economic freedom principles.
He is endorsed by RMGO, former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong, president of Colorado Christian University, Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud), and former Sen. John Andrews, director of Centennial Institute.
Sanchez captured top line on the primary ballot, winning 60 percent of the delegate vote to 40 percent for Nicolais. The Republican winner will battle Kerr in the general election.
“As Republicans we agree on almost everything,” said Nicolais. “We agree on limited government, (and) that we must fight against overreach of government like Common Core,” a national education standard forced on public schools.
“We also agree that TABOR (Taxpayers Bill of Rights) should be protected,” he said.
“It should be your right as taxpayers to vote on whether taxes go up or down – and not Andy Kerr,” said Nicolais, reminding folks that Kerr is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit to repeal TABOR.