Lia Thomas issue may be key for turning Colorado red, former Olympian running for Senate says

Mother on Lia Thomas controversy: ‘It’s time for everyone to start speaking the truth’

‘Save Women’s Sports’ Founder Beth Stelzer discusses Lia Thomas and the transgender athlete controversy.

Colorado statewide races have trended Democratic since 2006, with the lone exception of Cory Gardner’s U.S. Senate victory in 2014, but a Republican running for Senate this year told Fox News Digital that the transgender sports issue – best typified by NCAA swimming champion Lia Thomas – may prove vital in turning this mostly blue state red in the 2022 midterm election.

Eli Bremer, a former Olympian who joined the effort to reform the U.S. Olympic Committee in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, said the transgender sports issue can flip the tables on Democrats’ “war on women” rhetoric. He faulted Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., for not getting involved in the effort to pass the reform bill S. 2330, even though Bennet serves as the co-chair of the Congressional Olympic and Paralympic Caucus. A spokesperson for Bennet’s U.S. Senate office contested the claim that Bennet insufficiently fought for women after the Nassar scandal, noting that Bennet voted (in a voice vote) for S. 2330 and pointing to a separate bill the senator cosponsored at the time.

“This is a lethal issue for Michael Bennett because historically Democrats have said that Republicans are the ones who don’t stand up for women, but the tables are completely turned now,” Bremer told Fox News Digital. “I am a Republican who helped lead the efforts to end sexual abuse in the Olympics, and now I’m leading on this issue.”

Former Olympic athlete and U.S. Air Force veteran Eli Bremer on Tuesday launched a Republican Senate campaign in Colorado, aiming to challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in the 2022 midterm elections.
(Eli Bremer Senate campaign)

“Michael Bennett refuses to stand with women,” the Republican added. “This could be a defining issue in the November election.” 

Bennet supports H.R. 5, The Equality Act, which expands federal civil rights protections to people who identify as transgender, including in the arena of sports. He commemorated the Transgender Day of Visibility last week.

Bremer described the issue of transgender identity as a “tsunami coming in,” noting that schools across the country have started to encourage boys and girls who express confusion about their gender to embrace a transgender identity. Gender centers have reported several-thousand-percent increases in youth presenting gender distress. 

Lia Thomas, who won the 500-yard freestyle competing against women at the NCAA championship last month, had competed as a male before competing against women, and had ranked No. 462 in men’s swimming, according to Thomas’ female teammates.

Pennsylvania’s Lia Thomas waits for a preliminary heat in the Women’s NCAA 500 meter freestyle swimming championship start Thursday, March 17, 2022, in at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

“I think most Democrats know this is wrong,” Bremer told Fox News. “The Left is looking more and more absurd when they come out and say Lia Thomas has no advantage. You can’t deny that a biological male has an advantage, especially post-pubescent.”

“I will say that federal legislation should be based on biology, not identity,” the candidate insisted.

Bremer said that his campaign’s internal polling suggests that people “viscerally” understand this issue, and that the vast majority of Republicans and unaffiliated voters agree that males who identify as transgender women should not be allowed to compete against women in sports. Even “about half of Democrats said that they had a problem with it, too,” the candidate added.

Colorado is known for its fitness culture, and one of the two U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Centers is based in Colorado Springs. 

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Michael Bennet speaks to voters at a house party in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., December 8, 2019.  REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz 

“I feel very comfortable in saying that while there’s a lot of support for people who are transitioning, there’s just not the same support for hurting little girls in sports,” Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, a Colorado-based think tank, told Fox News Digital. “This is an unfair competition. Lia Thomas – the guy was something like 440th in the nation as a young man and number 1 as someone who identifies as a woman.”

“For people who say they’re concerned for equity, there’s no equity in that,” Caldara added. “That’s just cruel. It’s anti-female. I think girls deserve to have their own sports, and I think most of Colorado does, too.”

Deborah Flora, another Republican candidate in the Senate race, also agreed with Bremer that the issue resonates.

“Female athletes who have worked hard their entire lives losing to biological males is capturing the attention of people of common sense everywhere,” Flora told Fox News Digital. “The vast majority of Americans know it is fundamentally unfair because biological males have physical advantages that hormone blockers cannot mitigate including: larger lungs, lower oxygen requirements, a larger heart and circulatory system, not to mention muscle mass and development. The is science is clear.”

Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, sits in the courtroom during his sentencing hearing in the Eaton County Court in Charlotte, Michigan, U.S., February 2, 2018. 
(Reuters/Rebecca Cook)

Flora went on to reference “the elimination of privacy and threat to personal safety for women and girls in locker rooms, dressing rooms and bathrooms,” and said she has been “fighting against these policies in schools.”

“I challenge Democrat Michael Bennett to stand up for these young women- to say enough is enough,” she added. “In his stead, as Senator, I will stand up for what is fair and right and help restore common sense to Washington.”

Bennet’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital, but his Senate office commented on Bennet’s history on the Larry Nassar issue.

Eli Bremer is a consultant and former Olympic athlete. He is running as a Republican for Senate in Colorado.
(Eli Bremer )

“Senator Bennet supported S. 2330 when it passed the Senate unanimously,” a spokesperson told Fox News Digital. “Senator Bennet also cosponsored the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act, which was a targeted response in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal. That bill also passed the Senate unanimously.”

“In 2018, Senator Bennet met with Sarah Hirschland, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, to discuss the Committee’s reform efforts,” the spokesperson added. “Senator Bennet has said and strongly believes that anyone who knew about the accusations against Larry Nassar and failed to act should be held accountable.”

A person involved in the negotiations of S. 2330 told Fox News that then-Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., spearheaded the bill. The person verified Bremer’s claim that Bennet did not have a hand in the drafting and progression of the bill, but the source said that Bennet did not need to get involved because he was not on the committee of jurisdiction for the bill. The source added that committees like the Olympics Committee “don’t do much.”

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., addresses a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Capitol Hill.
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

A separate person involved in promoting S. 2330 in Colorado highlighted Bremer’s role in the process and questioned why Bennet did not get involved.

“If you’re touting yourself as the chair of the Olympic Caucus, and you represent the state with all the Olympic activity in it, shouldn’t you be involved?” the source asked in comments to Fox News Digital.

The source said that Bremer “did contribute to it in a big way” by connecting legislative leaders with former Olympians. The source also said that Gardner got involved in issues that were key for Colorado, even if he wasn’t on the committee of jurisdiction.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former Olympian and CEO of Champion Women, told Fox News Digital that Bennet was not involved with S. 2330, noting that he did not sponsor the bill. 

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