I lost. I failed to make the Republican Primary Ballot and therefore my campaign for the U.S. Senate has concluded. But my concern for Colorado and Coloradans remains stronger than ever.
Having been an Olympian and participating in highly competitive environments, I have a lot of experience with losing. In fact, my most profound life lessons and many successes have come because of failure to meet my initial objective.
What I’ve learned is that sometimes your initial objective is a stepping stone to a bigger mission.
For example, in 2004, I failed to make the Olympic team. I was crushed, but I took the opportunity to look forward rather than backward. I reflected on the process and identified better ways to prepare my next attempt to represent Team USA in the Olympics.
In developing a better plan, I realized that there were systemic problems; and for myself and others, I would have to fix them. So I invested heavily in building a sports system for my sport that would foster and reward excellence rather than mediocrity.
My strategy worked. Within two years, I was ranked #2 in the World, and I made the Olympic team and represented the United States at the Olympics in Beijing. I had accomplished a lifelong goal; I would forever be an Olympian.
While competing, I learned that the systemic problems within my sport were part of a much larger and far more corrupt infrastructure that started at the top within the governing body itself – the United States Olympic Committee (USOC, now USOPC).
I became extremely unpopular within some very powerful circles when I spent a decade publicly and privately demanding systemic changes to a broken Olympic Committee.
Sadly, the Larry Nassar scandal exposed what I knew to be true and what I had been talking about for years – the USOPC had systemic problems. Problems so horrific that they were covering up the ongoing sexual abuse of young girls and women on the Gymnastics and Swimming teams.
Throughout my campaign for Senate, I talked about this time in my life and the bridge burning that ensued due to my efforts to reform the broken Olympic system. I did so because it speaks to my character as a reformer, and also because I ultimately did help reform the USOPC as a key civilian leader of congressional legislation.
As a private citizen, I worked with lawmakers all around the country from both parties to pass legislation substantially overhauling the USOPC. While I am extremely proud to have seen a decade worth of work be met with the passage of legislation, this story is important for an even bigger reason.
While I was passing legislation, Michael Bennet (my would-be opponent) who was the founding Co-Chair of the Senatorial Olympic Caucus, did not return the calls from his colleagues – from either party…not even his own.
I am good at losing. But I’m also good at identifying systemic problems. Given Colorado Republicans’ track record of losing statewide elections despite polling as a “purple” state, I think it’s safe to say there is a systemic problem here.
In Colorado there are two ways by which to access the Primary Ballot: petition on or go through the Republican State Assembly process. Neither are a guarantee and they each come with their own challenges, costs, and risks.
After much discussion with my team, we decided that to access the ballot we would go through the grassroots assembly process. After all, I had a great case to make to my fellow Republicans; and in the history of Colorado, no one who has petitioned onto the US Senate ballot as ever won the Republican Primary.
At convention I made the case to Delegates and Alternate Delegates that I should be placed on our Party’s primary ballot because if I won, I would be able to spend the entire general election campaign talking about how I passed legislation in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal and Michael Bennet did nothing.
I attempted to put a very fine point on the fact that this would be the starkest and most compelling contrast that anyone could make when taking on Michael Bennet. I stand by this decision. Nearly 45% of Colorado voters are unaffiliated, and contrasting my support for sexual assault victims against Michael Bennett’s inaction would give these swing voters a solid reason to fire the incumbent.
I have since been validated by national organizations not connected with our campaign who have now shared that they had me as the leading Republican candidate to take on Michael Bennet in the general election, even close or tied with him in a direct matchup.
Personal disappointment aside, what I saw take place in that convention center was a heartbreaking representation of the Party I love. Colorado Republicans made national news for placing only one Senatorial candidate on the ballot through the Assembly process, and that candidate was widely viewed as the candidate least likely to be able to win a general election.
Here’s what I saw at the State Assembly:
1. Resumes aren’t important to Assembly goers. They want a show. They are not looking for candidates who can win a general election in a purple state like Colorado. Rather they are looking for the candidate with the most incendiary rhetoric regardless of adherence to truth, the rule of law, or even conservative principles.
2. I watched as the highest vote-getter for any race at the convention was a candidate for Secretary of State. Given all the conversation around election integrity, this may make sense but that’s not what put her over the top for voters.
3. I witnessed a point of pride surrounding this person’s criminal indictment by a Republican District Attorney and a Grand Jury on what appear to be nearly ironclad charges (she has admitted to most of the actions). Yet the Convention voters placed their trust to run Colorado elections in the hands of a woman who is now legally barred from running elections due to her own misdeeds.
4. A candidate for Governor received loud applause when he stated he would pardon the aforementioned person, thus forgoing our legal system. Not only did he make the ballot, but he also got the most votes in his race.
5. The only candidate who was nominated for US Senate proudly announced he had stormed the US Capitol, denied that Joe Biden was the President, and declared that Donald Trump won Colorado (the margin was 13.5% and no credible allegations of fraud exist in Colorado to explain this margin). This is diametrically opposite the successful approach of Glenn Youngkin in Virginia and has no possibility of winning a general election in Colorado.
6. And most disturbing, I saw my Party give a standing ovation to a man named Joe Oltmann. He has openly and repeatedly called for violence and for the literal execution of both Republicans and Democrats who disagree with his positions regarding the 2020 election results. Our campaign made news when we publicly denounced this and stated we would never share a stage with him or participate in any event supported by his activist organization.
7. This is the systemic problem in Colorado… ballot access.
I’m proud of my campaign, my campaign team, and will be forever grateful to my supporters. We had more endorsements than any other candidate for Senate and each endorsement has had a profoundly humbling impact on my life.
My work to reform the Olympic Committee demonstrates a proven track record of identifying and being missionally driven to fix systemic problems. Having identified an extremely broken system in Colorado, it has become impossible for me to walk away from working towards its solution.
Ballot access in Colorado is not representative of our state’s values and neither are our current elected leaders. But they are in office due to a broken system.
According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s website, there are nearly 1 million active registered Republican voters. According to the Colorado Republican Committee, which is responsible for organizing the State Assembly, fewer than 4,000 people were registered to attend the Assembly as a Delegates.
This means that less than half of 1% of the Republican party is deciding who everyone else will have the opportunity to vote for when they receive their ballots this June. I struggle to see how this is a good system for Republicans and until someone steps up and does something about it, Colorado will never be competitive.
I’m willing to step up and I hope you will join me.