Heidi Ganahl talks water negotiations, environmental policy during Club 20 forum

Republican candidate for governor Heidi Ganahl took the stage in Grand Junction Saturday to share some of her vision for Colorado during a candidate forum that her opponent, Democratic incumbent Gov. Jared Polis, did not attend.

“Jared Polis, in my view, is destroying that Colorado and American dream. I am not going to pull punches today. We have 59 days left to wake people up to what is at stake,” Ganahl said in her opening remarks, which included points typical in most of her speeches about rising crime rates, statistics about poor educational achievement and the reiteration that she is a “mom on a mission” to lead Colorado.


The forum was hosted by Western Slope advocacy group Club 20 and moderated by Ray Beck, Club 20’s membership chair, during the organization’s day-long event with state and federal candidates.

Polis was not the only Democratic candidate to not participate: Secretary of State Jena Griswold and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet also did not attend to debate their Republican opponents. That gave Ganahl, secretary of state candidate Pam Anderson and Senate candidate Joe O’Dea an opportunity to answer questions on stage without rebuttal or pushback. Polis did not attend due to a scheduling conflict, according to his campaign.

Ganahl’s responses to Beck’s six questions hit the high points of her campaign so far without offering new, specific proposals. She wants to eliminate the state’s income tax, reduce bureaucracy, cut the gas tax in half and strengthen school choice systems. Ganahl has yet to flesh out some of those ideas, however, such as how her administration would get rid of the income tax, the largest revenue source for the state’s general fund.

I want to put the oil and gas industry back to work.

– Colorado GOP governor candidate Heidi Ganahl

Ganahl, a University of Colorado regent, said she plans to open satellite offices around the state if elected, including one in Grand Junction.

“I will not only listen on the phone or over Zoom, I will be here and I will have people here to listen and pay attention to the needs that you have,” she said.

In response to a question about addressing the water shortage along the Colorado River, Ganahl said she would be reluctant to agree to any water usage cuts that could come from a renegotiation of the Colorado River Compact in a few years. The current management guidelines expire in 2026 and states that use water from the river will need to figure out updated guidelines that take into account increased population and worsening conditions due to the climate crisis.

A podium was set up for Gov. Jared Polis, who did not participate in the event, as Republican candidate for Colorado governor Heidi Ganahl speaks Sep. 10, 2022, during the Club 20 Western Colorado Candidate Debates at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. (William Woody for Colorado Newsline)

“Water: it’s the most important issue we are facing in Colorado, and you need a governor that has a spine and will stand up to the federal government and the other states and protect what is rightfully ours,” she said. “We do not have to defer to the federal government like Jared Polis and (Attorney General) Phil Weiser are.”

“As far as the Colorado River Compact, the best we can do is not negotiate. We’re not going to go into that negotiation giving anything at all,” she said.

Ganahl repeatedly criticized “Green New Deal” policies under the Polis administration that she said hurt the energy industry, make it harder for home builders and affect infrastructure decisions. The Green New Deal refers to 2019 failed legislation that called for ambitious public policy to address climate change.

“I want to put the oil and gas industry back to work,” she said. “Why on Earth are we not producing energy here in Colorado when we produce the cleanest energy on the planet? We have the strictest regulations and, instead, Jared Polis and his Green New Deal with Joe Biden have shut energy production down.”

Colorado is ranked ninth overall among states for total energy production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Republican candidate for Colorado governor Heidi Ganahl speaks Sep. 10, 2022, during the Club 20 Western Colorado Candidate Debates at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. (William Woody for Colorado Newsline)

In response to other questions, Ganahl said she is in favor of thinning forests to manage wildfires and is opposed to a single-payer health care system in the state.

Like she has in most campaign appearances, Ganahl said her main priority as governor would be to “trust” constituents.

“The most important thing I can do to bring people together across Colorado and solve these big, bold issues is to respect you, and to protect you and your rights, and to advocate for you as Coloradans and to trust you to make good decisions for your life, your business and your family,” she said.

Ganahl is trailing Polis when it comes to campaign finance, with about $188,000 in the bank compared to Polis’ $3.3 million, according to recent filings. The two are expected to debate in person Sept. 28 in Pueblo.

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