Tina Peters, other GOP candidates for secretary of state embrace election conspiracy theories
The contest for choosing Colorado’s next secretary of state has received significantly more attention than it has in previous years, and for at least one candidate, the choice for Republican nominee could give some insight into the state party’s future.
“This is an election for the Republican Party not only for this race, but it will decide our relevancy in November and whether we are the party of the rule of law and a free democracy,” said candidate Pam Anderson at a forum hosted by the Foothills Republicans.
Anderson’s statement was of course mainly directed at one of her opponents, Mesa County clerk Tina Peters. The three GOP candidates for secretary of state, Anderson, Peters and businessman Mike O’Donnell discussed their platforms on Thursday in Lakewood, the only time all three candidates were expected to participate in such an event together before the June primaries.
Peters, who was elected to her office in 2018, continues to push a false narrative of widespread election fraud, despite even other Republican clerks’ evidence against this.
In March, Peters was indicted by a grand jury on charges related to an election security breach, and the month prior, was arrested over allegations of kicking at a police officer trying to restrain her as investigators conducted a search warrant on her iPad. She was also barred by a judge from overseeing the 2021 and 2022 elections. But she told attendees on Thursday that she has not broken any laws and all of these cases are just political attacks against her.
The clerk also claimed that in Colorado, “there have been leaders that have been selected, not elected,” and that she’s the only that acknowledges it and can fix it.
In an interview with The Denver Post, Anderson responded to Peters’ assertion, saying, “(Peters) was elected. So is she saying that she wasn’t duly elected official all the way up and down the ballot? I think competent election officials don’t base their opinion on the process on who wins or loses, but on the verified evidence …”
Anderson is a former Jefferson County clerk and previous director of the Colorado County Clerks Association who has said Colorado’s election systems are safe and secure, though she doesn’t believe they are perfect, and that the 2020 presidential election was not rigged. A 2021 poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that only a third of Republicans believed President Joe Biden was legitimately elected.
Throughout the event, Peters and Anderson directed their critiques at one another — Anderson at Peters for allegations of breaking laws and an election security breach, refusing training and relying on false rhetoric; and Peters at Anderson for her work on a a nonprofit board that took donations from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and a disconnect from what’s happening with elections systems. Peters told attendees that she has not broken any laws and the attacks against her are political.
Like Peters, O’Donnell is also an election denier who opposes voting by mail and alleged the state’s voter rolls are littered with problems. Although Anderson did not go as far as Peters and O’Donnell, even saying some of their insinuations or claims were false, she also told the crowd that there were problems with Colorado’s automatic voter registration systems and that she wanted to fix them.
All three candidates focused much of their ire on Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who is running for re-election, saying that Griswold has politicized her office and fueled distrust among voters. Peters, who continued to peddle conspiracy theories by 2020 election deniers and cited unfounded research on fraud in Colorado’s election systems, said Griswold should go to jail.
But the Mesa clerk also tried to connect Anderson to Griswold, who said had a lot more in common with the Democrat than either of them knows.
Peters won the majority of votes for the seat at the Colorado Republican Party’s state assembly and convention, echoing sentiments of other GOP candidates embracing election conspiracy theories. O’Donnell also went through the assembly. Anderson, however, petitioned onto the ballot.
Colorado’s primary elections will take place on June 28, and those results will determine who faces Griswold in the November election.
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