2022 Election, Elections, Featured, Larimer County, Loveland, Original Report, Sherrie Peif

House Minority Leader McKean beats back RMGO challenge; gun activist group loses big on primary night

LOVELAND — Despite thousands of dollars spent on negative advertising, daily emails, and a social media blitz littered with controversial opinions about whether current House Minority Leader Hugh McKean was pro-gun enough, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) lost their fight to unseat McKean for his third and final term in the Colorado House of Representatives.

McKean, who did not make the ballot at the county assembly after controversy over the number of delegates counted, petitioned on, and beat his primary opponent Austin Hein, an employee of RMGO, with 56 percent of the vote.

McKean drew the ire of the northern Colorado organization, that sustains itself fundraising on Second Amendment issues, when he successfully unseated Patrick Neville as the Minority Leader two years ago. Neville’s family has long been supporters and employees of RMGO.

Attacks on McKean came just one year after he was name Minority Leader. First, an accidental yes vote on a bill that barred firearm sales to anyone with certain violent misdemeanors produced a fundraising email claiming McKean was “anti-gun.”

Then Neville and fellow RMGO legislators Ron Hanks and Dave Williams attempted a takeover soon after by organizing a vote of no confidence against McKean.

After that failed, RMGO put up another employee, Austin Hein, to run against McKean for his seat. Throughout the election, Hein and former legislator Steve Humphrey, who was also well-funded by RMGO during his time in the state legislature, took every opportunity to attack McKean, including filing with the Secretary of State’s office false accusations that McKean did not live in his house district.

The Secretary of State quickly dismissed the complaint.

RMGO also sent out “surveys” to all candidates running for the State House asking if they would pledge to vote out McKean as minority leader if they were elected.

“This is the reputation of RMGO,” McKean said Wednesday after his primary victory. “They knew they needed to win at all costs in my race, so they put everything they could into it. They know no other way of campaigning except dishonesty and negativity. And the voters of House District 51 rejected it.

It hasn’t just been the voters of House District 51. Over the past two election cycles, RMGO-backed candidates have lost consistently.

In 2020, RMGO-backed candidates lost in the primary races for House Districts 63, 49, 22, 48 and in Senate District 23.

This year, they lost across the state as well. In addition to Hein, RMGO lost two big investments in county sheriff races. Todd Watkins in El Paso County and Jeff Fisher in Larimer County both lost on Tuesday. Additionally, long-time RMGO-supported candidates, Lori Saine (Congressional District 8), Ron Hanks (US Senate) and Dave Williams (Congressional District 5) all lost their primaries.

The Hanks and Williams losses deal another big blow to RMGO, as both could not run for re-election in their respective house seats since they chose to run for federal offices, so their influence in the House is gone.

“What happened was voters expect positive solutions for the state,” McKean said. “When they see negative campaigns — if you are not telling them how you are going so solve inflation and work on crime and get a good education for their kids — they have no interest in talking to you. Nor should they.”

Now that McKean has his primary behind him and no Democrat running against him in November, he is fully focused on helping other candidates in swing and competitive districts win to take back the House for the Republicans. A feat some say is impossible — but not McKean.

McKean said all people are thinking about right now is how we got to where we are.

“The Dems ideology of electrifying the state with less options and not more options is what’s causing an economic thunderstorm,” McKean said. “The thunder in that storm is Polis and the Democrats putting oil and gas out of business, and the lightening of that storm is driving up the cost for consumers so that people are not able to pay their bills.”


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