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Republican Greg Lopez selected in Colorado’s 4th CD to replace Ken Buck

Greg Lopez mingles with the crowd in Hugo, Colo., Thursday, March 28, 2024, before a panel of Republicans selected him to run in a special election to serve out the final months of U.S. Rep. Ken Buck’s term. Buck left the U.S. House early, citing many in his party who refuse to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election and to condemn the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. (Thomas Peipert/The Associated Press)
Lopez is the former mayor of Parker. He lost two Republican gubernatorial primaries in Colorado and has a history of run-ins with law enforcement

HUGO – A Republican vacancy committee late Thursday selected former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez to be the GOP nominee for the June 25 special election that will determine who serves out the term of U.S. Rep. Ken Buck in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District.

Lopez’s surprise victory all but assures he will become a member of Congress.

Lopez, a two-time failed gubernatorial candidate with a history of run-ins with law enforcement, will run June 25 against whomever Democrats select next week to be their nominee for the special election in the 4th District, which includes Douglas County and Loveland and spans the Eastern Plains.

But because the district is so favorable to Republicans – Buck won his last two elections by at least 23 percentage points – Lopez is effectively a shoo-in to win.

Buck, a Windsor Republican, resigned from Congress on Friday. His term was supposed to end in January 2025.

Lopez beat out eight candidates to secure the nomination after six rounds of voting over nearly six hours. In the final round, Lopez bested former state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

The final vote was 51 votes for Lopez and 46 for Sonnenberg.

Candidates had to win a majority of the delegates’ support to secure the nomination. Low vote-getters dropped out as the rounds continued.

Lopez, a former Democrat who served two terms as Parker’s mayor in the 1990s, has promised to only serve out the rest of Buck’s term and not run in the crowded Republican primary election to replace Buck long term.

“I’m going to go there and do the best job that I can and represent this state to the best of my ability,” Lopez, who lost the Republican gubernatorial primary in 2018 and 2022, told reporters after the final vote tally was announced. He said he was surprised by the results Thursday.

Greg Lopez speaks in Hugo, Colo., Thursday, March 28, 2024, before a panel of Republicans who selected him to run in a special election to serve out the final months of U.S. Rep. Ken Buck's term. Buck left the U.S. House early, citing many in his party who refuse to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election and to condemn the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. (Thomas Peipert/The Associated Press)

Lopez’s run-ins with law enforcement have been well documented and he has openly talked about them.

In 1993, he and his wife were both cited in a domestic violence incident in which he was accused of pushing his wife, who was six months pregnant, to the floor and kicking her after she hit him on the top of his head. The Denver Post reported in 1994 that both Lopez and his wife pleaded guilty to a single charge of harassment.

Lopez was also accused, in a separate case, of driving under the influence.

Then, in October 2020, Lopez settled a lawsuit filed by federal prosecutors alleging that after he left the Small Business Administration, where he was the Colorado district director from 2008 to 2014, Lopez violated federal law by attempting to improperly influence actions of the agency.

Prosecutors alleged Lopez “attempted to influence the SBA’s handling of its loan guarantee” to Morreale Hotels, which was owned by Lopez’s friend.

Lopez paid $15,000 to resolve the case and “acknowledged that the United States could prove the facts alleged in the civil action by a preponderance of the evidence,” per a news release from the Trump administration’s Justice Department.

Lopez said he wasn’t aware at the time that he did anything wrong. He also said prosecutors brought the case just days before the statute of limitations expired. “They wanted $157,000 for a phone call and an email,” he said. “I settled for $15,000.”

Rep. Lauren Boebert chats with customers and staff at Franktown Firearms Shooting Center, Feb. 23, 2024, in Franktown. The Republican congresswoman is campaigning throughout Colorado’s 4th district after she narrowly won the 3rd District by less than 600 votes in 2022. (Olivia Sun/The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Colorado’s Trump-appointed U.S. attorney at the time, Jason Dunn, framed the case differently.

“Mr. Lopez’s attempts to exert improper influence over a federal agency on behalf of his friend were serious violations of the rules for former federal officials,” Dunn said in a written statement. “The American people deserve to have confidence that the federal government runs its programs without favoritism toward former officials.”

Lopez on Thursday night, when asked by reporters about his legal history, said that “people have already heard about it.” He declined to speak about the settlement with federal prosecutors, saying “the record speaks for itself.”

Lopez’s wife later lambasted a group of reporters for asking her husband about the domestic violence case.

In the past, Lopez has said he thinks abortion should be outlawed without exception and that climate change isn’t caused by human behavior. He has also said that Donald Trump was the true winner of the 2020 election, which is false.

The 98 delegates – local Republican leaders and state lawmakers who live in the district – who voted to select the GOP’s special election nominee in the 4th District represent 0.01% of the roughly 722,000 people who live in the district. (One delegate didn’t vote in the final round, but cast ballots in five prior ones.)

If Lopez is elected June 25, he would help shore up Republicans’ razor-thin majority in the U.S. House, which has shrunk because of resignations and the ouster of then-U. S. Rep. George Santos.

Primary on the same day as the special election

The June 25 special election in the 4th District will be held the same day as the state’s primaries.

There are about 10 Republicans running to represent the 4th District, including Sonnenberg and U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, who in December switched congressional districts to protect her political future. She didn’t seek the GOP nomination for the special election because she complained that it was a process rigged against her by Buck and others. “The uniparty is trying to do everything that they can to stop my candidacy, to rig the election in Colorado,” Boebert said in a video posted after Buck announced his decision.

Republicans aligned with Donald Trump often use the “uniparty” label to insult members of the party they think aren’t conservative enough or work too closely with Democrats.

Buck, who had not endorsed a successor, has denied that his resignation was timed to hurt Boebert, calling the accusation “ridiculous.”

Conservative commentator Deborah Flora, who is also running in the Republican primary in the 4th District, also decided not to seek the special election nomination, calling the process opaque.

Lopez’s victory came after Boebert encouraged delegates to vote for a candidate who wasn’t also running in the GOP primary in the 4th District.

Boebert wrote in a letter to delegates Thursday morning that they should pick a placeholder to “avoid giving an unfair advantage to any one particular candidate … already in the primary race, as well as avoid confusing Coloradans who will have both races on their ballot.”

Boebert’s campaign manager, Drew Sexton, attended the vacancy committee meeting Thursday night. Flora’s campaign manager attended the meeting, too.

In the fifth round of voting, the three candidates left were Sonnenberg, Lopez and former state Sen. Ted Harvey. Harvey got the fewest votes and was eliminated.

Harvey endorsed Sonnenberg for the sixth and final round, asking his supporters to back Sonnenberg. Harvey said picking Lopez – a placeholder – would be a threat, and he accused candidates who weren’t running for the special election nomination of trying to prop up Lopez to help themselves.

“To suggest that we send a placeholder to Washington, D.C., to represent 800,000 people is irresponsible,” Harvey said to a smattering of boos. “It is irresponsible and it is dangerous.”

His supporters didn’t uniformly listen, however, narrowly handing Lopez a victory that seemed highly unlikely when the vacancy committee meeting began.

Lopez didn’t announce his intention to run for the nomination until last week.

Read more at The Colorado Sun

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.