A businessman, author of books about the consumer experience, and public speaker. Married with two adult children and lives in Colorado Springs.
First-time candidate who has been a Republican Party donor and given to conservative causes like the Koch brothers-connected Freedom Partners and Americans for Prosperity.
Why he says he’s running
He doesn’t a see a true conservative in the race who can win a general election.
It was late March when Barry Farah, the 56-year-old Colorado Springs businessman stopped flirting with a campaign for governor and made it official.
More than a year ago his name had been swirling in GOP circles as a potential candidate, and his wife had snapped up web domains containing his name and teased a potential candidacy on Twitter. But it wasn’t until three weeks before the April 14 GOP state assembly that he actually pulled the trigger.
Why? Well, why not? The field of actively campaigning Republican candidates— which counted eight by the time Farah got in— hasn’t yet settled around a clear front-runner.
Steve House, the former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, said on the day Farah announced that while data he’s seen on the race shows State Treasurer Walker Stapleton leading with Attorney General Cynthia Coffman just behind him, nearly 40 percent of Republican primary voters are still undecided. He said he thinks the more choices voters have the better, so he welcomed another hat in the ring. “The race is really anybody’s to win,” he said.
As for Farah, he said the departure of conservatives Tom Tancredo, an immigration hawk former congressman, and George Brauchler, a high-profile district attorney, left a void. But in an interview with The Colorado Independent, he was vague about how exactly he planned to stand out in the field that also includes retired investment banker Doug Robinson, entrepreneur ex-lawmaker Victor Mitchell, Donald Trump’s Denver campaign co-chair Steve Barlock, former Parker mayor Greg Lopez, and Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter.
“In my view what people are looking for when it comes to excitement is a sense of purposefulness in why they’re doing what they’re doing,” Farah said about Colorado’s GOP electorate. “I think where it’s at is there’s just some confusion or just a lack of clarity and articulation of what it means to be a conservative. And there’s a purposefulness that I think people are looking for. That’s the sense I’ve gotten.”
But his super-late entry left some Republican scratching their heads and wondering how anyone could have an impact this late in the game. Farah announced a day after the signature petitions were due, so he’s going through the state assembly process, meaning he’ll have to snag 30 percent of the vote from 4,200 Republican delegates at the assembly at the University of Colorado in Boulder on April 14.
Coffman zinged his candidacy a day after he got in the race. “Ego,” she said bluntly to The Colorado Independent when asked why he thought he jumped in.
Because he got in so late, his campaign will be a three-week blitz until the state assembly to see if he will qualify for the June 26 ballot. If he hits that 30 percent or more threshold among delegates, then he’ll get to campaign for another two months to see if he can win the overall nomination.
What’s Farah’s background?
A California native who grew up in Oklahoma, Farah has lived in Colorado Springs for two decades and spent his life in the business world, working as a financial controller for Ford Motor Company before launching his own series of companies from business-to-business services to software companies, which he then sold. An entrepreneur, he also got involved in commercial development in Colorado and California.
What are some of his campaign themes?
“For me, there’s a celebration to economic freedom, for me there’s an elegance to limited government, and there’s a dignity to personal responsibility,” Farah said when asked what issues he would campaign on and how he thinks he might stand out. “So those three issues have more punch to them for myself, and I’m not hearing that. You’re not igniting the folks who have thought about what it means to be a conservative.”
In an interview, he declined to make direct comparisons between himself and the others in the race. On specific policy he said he would crack down on sanctuary cities, something about which other candidates often bring up on the stump. He said he would tackle the state’s transportation issues— another top campaign platform issue among his rivals— by making it more of a priority in the state budget and finding more money for it by rooting out government waste.
He says he would like to use that money to create eight highway lanes from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins.
In his first major public appearance since getting in the race, Farah gave a speech to more than 1,000 Republicans on March 24 at the El Paso County GOP assembly. He said he was going to run and govern on a platform of celebrating economic freedom, dignifying personal responsibility, and limited government.
“Limited government is a good thing, it’s an elegant thing, it’s what makes America America,” Farah said from a lectern. “That’s what gave us the American idea, it’s why there isn’t a Zimbabwe-ian idea.”
In an interview on 9News he said he doesn’t disagree with Stapleton so much on policy, but rather on style:
Where does he fit along the Republican spectrum in Colorado?
Farah is like the majority of the Republicans running this year for governor in that he was a not a former lawmaker and therefore does not have a voting record.
He says he voted for Donald Trump and has been so far happy with Trump’s nomination of Coloradan Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court and by Trump’s efforts to cut regulations.
He says he wants to appeal to “faith-and-freedom-oriented” conservatives
“To be a Republican at minimum must mean you celebrate economic freedom,” he says, adding, ”You have the right to your own labor, you have the right to your own assets and so economic freedom to me means we keep regulations low, we allow business with a minimal amount of interference. I do believe in appropriate limitations in certain cases for safety reasons and that type of thing. But economic freedom matters a lot to me.”
Where might he draw his support?
Farah won’t have to disclose who is financially supporting his campaign until May.
His entry into the race drew immediate attention to his ties to the limited government world of the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers network. He’s given to organizations they run, including Freedom Partners and their prime political nonprofit Americans for Prosperity, where his wife, Tamra Farah worked until she took a leave of absence to work on his campaign.
Asked about whether he would be able to harness the political powers of the Koch network in his race for governor, Farah hinted that he might. “I can tell you I have lots of friends in those arenas,” he said, adding that his connections to that world “could be a substantial help.” The campaign, he said, is “happy with our friendships there.”
An ability to harness Koch-network support in this year’s governor’s race— tacitly or explicitly— certainly wouldn’t be something to sneeze at. That’s why Jesse Mallory, who runs the Colorado operation of Americans for Prosperity, said he started fielding calls about Farah as soon as word circulated that he was poised to announce a run. Mallory said he told them all the same thing: AFP Colorado is focused on the state legislature, and “we have no plans to involve ourselves in the gubernatorial primary.”
As for Farah himself, asked on the day he announced if his entrance should send any signal to other Republican candidates for governor who might have hoped for help from the Koch network, he said he didn’t want to “go down that path,” adding, “We’ll just see how everything works out.”
How might the new primary system voters just passed affect a Farah candidacy?
No one knows yet, but it could benefit a candidate who does not come from the far right wing of the party more than one who does.
Because voters approved ballot measure Prop 108 on Nov. 8, Colorado’s next governor’s race will be the first year unaffiliated voters will be allowed to have a say in whom the Republican Party nominates for governor. Republicans will still caucus for their candidates at precincts around the state — and unaffiliated voters cannot participate in those — but once candidates land on the primary ballot, either by coming out of caucuses or petitioning on, unaffiliated voters could be allowed to vote.
This means that in the 2018 governor’s race, mailed ballots will be sent to unaffiliated voters with the names of Democratic and Republican primary candidates. Voters can choose one party or the other to participate in.
One aim of Prop 108 was to water down the voting power of the activist base in each party by broadening the electorate. Proponents of the measure saw it as a way to reduce the chances of Colorado nominating extreme candidates on either side. Whether that actually happens remains to be seen.