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### GOP Candidates in Eastern CO Congressional Race Focus on Abortion, Election Fraud, and Education Reform

On Saturday, the ambiance at the Deep Space Parker Lounge and Event Center in Parker, Colorado, was noticeably subdued during the Colorado Young Republicans’ debate for GOP candidates vying for Colorado’s 4th Congressional District (CD4), presently represented by retiring U.S. Congressman Ken Buck.

The six contenders in attendance—U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), former talk radio host Deborah Flora, ex-congressional staffer Chris Phelen, Hispanic Energy Alliance chair Floyd Trujillo, and former state legislators Ted Harvey and Jerry Sonnenberg—brought a sense of restraint that has been an unexpected characteristic in other forums featuring this year’s GOP CD4 candidates. Lead moderator Jimmy Sengenberger steered the conversation through a series of conservative topics.

Republican candidates for Colorado’s 4th Congressional District. The candidates from top left: Harvey, Boebert, Flora, Trujillo, Phelen. From bottom left: state Lynch (absent), former state Sonnenberg, and Holtorf (absent). Bottom Center: Moderator Jimmy Sengenberger.

While discussing issues such as abortion, border control, Department of Education funding, and election integrity, the candidates frequently echoed the stances of former President Donald Trump.

Regarding abortion, Trump recently expressed support for a ban after 16 weeks of pregnancy, with certain exceptions.

Harvey’s remarks on abortion struck a discordant note, showcasing the far-right’s extreme rhetoric: “Democrats are the radicals who want to kill 7-pound babies,” he asserted, advocating for a national abortion ban to prevent places like Douglas County from turning into unintended “abortion tourism” hubs.

In stark contrast to his debate counterparts on Saturday, Phelen voiced backing for state sovereignty instead of a nationwide abortion ban. Phelen espoused a more traditional conservative ideology advocating for limited federal intervention.

Three other Republican CD4 candidates—state lawmaker Richard Holtorf, businessman Peter Yu, and Weld County Council member Trent Leisy—were absent that evening, but they all oppose a national abortion ban. Another CD4 candidate, state Rep. Mike Lynch of Wellington, also missing from the debate, opposed a national abortion ban at one GOP debate but expressed support for such a ban.


A moment of contention arose during a discussion on a legislative proposal, which encompassed aid to Ukraine and Israel.

Phelen remarked, “There are certain individuals, especially someone on this stage, who I believe wouldn’t endorse the legislation.”

Boebert swiftly responded, “I voted against it. You’re welcome too,” proudly affirming her dissent.

Phelen retorted, “That’s great. You voted against a bill that would help close the border,” underscoring the internal division regarding security strategies.

Shifting the focus to education, all candidates united in advocating for the dismantling of the Department of Education, reflecting long-standing beliefs. Harvey advocated for a voucher system, a reform that would significantly alter the public education landscape by channeling funds to private schools.

Flora, who emerged as the winner of the post-debate straw poll with 37 votes.

Flora expressed pride in her efforts in Douglas County, where she highlighted her pivotal role in “flipping the school board” and overturning what she perceived as problematic policies like Critical Race Theory (CRT).

Flora also alleged, “In my home school district of Cherry Creek, they’re transitioning children at the age of 12 without their parents’ knowledge or consent.”

This refers to a memo issued to educators in the Cherry Creek School District, emphasizing the importance of respecting students’ requests to be addressed by names aligning with their transgender or gender-fluid identities. The to substantiate its assertions that the district has “gender transition plans.” The memo actually aligns with the guidance of the U.S. Department of Education, but it does not mention a plan to “transition” students without parental consent. Instead, it addresses supporting students’ requests for name or gender changes when interacting with school staff.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Trujillo seemed to lack a definitive stance on education, echoing his fellow candidates with a simple “Ditto, ditto, ditto across the board.” His inability to articulate a unique position on education—or any other topic—may explain his failure to garner any straw poll votes.

The conversation on election integrity unveiled anticipated narratives of skepticism regarding voting systems. Here, both Sonnenberg and Trujillo echoed commonly heard conspiracy theories, implying a tendency for “fraud and cheating” when Democrats are involved in elections. However, neither provided evidence for such sweeping allegations.

In stark contrast once again was Phelen, who addressed the elephant in the room—the 2020 election. Phelen stood out as the sole candidate to affirm his belief in the election’s integrity, stating unequivocally: “I have faith in our legal system. If it was invalid, we would have found that.”

Flora took a more cautious approach, refraining from direct accusations while emphasizing the necessity to “clean up our voter rolls” and secure future elections​​.

As the evening’s discussions drew to a close, Sengenberger’s harmonica performance briefly injected energy into the room, concluding what had otherwise been a series of reserved exchanges among the candidates.

In the informal straw poll that ensued, Flora emerged as the clear favorite with 37 votes, significantly surpassing Boebert’s 13 and Sonnenberg’s 10. Harvey received 7 votes, Phelen 4, while Trujillo failed to secure any. Notably, Holtorf and Lynch, both absent from the debate, received one and zero votes, respectively, with one attendee remaining undecided.