SOS for Democracy

Colorado secretary of state candidates fight for GOP nomination, prepare to face Democrat incumbent

A trio of Republicans are jostling for the GOP nomination in the Colorado secretary of state primaries, readying to face the well-funded Democrat incumbent.

DENVER – A field of three Republicans are jostling for the GOP nomination in Colorado, with former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, indicted on election fraud charges, leading the GOP fundraising but well behind Democrat incumbent Jena Griswold.

In 2020, Griswold became the first Democrat in 60 years to hold the secretary of state position in Colorado. This year, she’s running unopposed in the primaries and had raked in record fundraising of more than $2.5 million as of May 16.

Leading the Republican fund-raising with $161,000, Peters has gained traction with supporters of the Big Lie, but the state GOP refused to endorse her and asked her to suspend her campaign. Peters has also been barred by a judge from overseeing the 2022 elections in Mesa County.

Peters has been indicted by a grand jury on 10 counts based on allegations of tampering with election equipment and official misconduct, all related to the ongoing investigation examining her role in taking hard drives from a voting machine and sharing them as well as passwords with election conspiracy theorists.

Some predict that, despite the indictment, her name will be on the ballot in the Nov. 8 general election.

“I imagine given the complexity of the investigation . . . it’s pretty unlikely that a trial would occur before the November election,” said Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubenstein. He noted that if convicted on all charges, Peters could face more than 20 years in state prison.

A potential dark horse in the Republican primaries is moderate Pam Anderson, a former Jefferson County and municipal clerk who rejects Trump-camp rhetoric about the 2020 election. In Georgia’s contested race that year, Anderson participated in certifying the recount that confirmed the state for Democrat then-candidate Joe Biden.

Anderson has been endorsed by Griswold’s predecessor, former secretary of state Wayne Williams, who replaced Peters as a Mesa County elections official after she was barred from overseeing this year’s election.

In the ring with Peters and Anderson is Mike O’Donnell, an immigrant from Australia whose platform focuses on pushing the secretary of state’s role to promote businesses in the state.

He, Anderson and Griswold see Peters as an unpredictable, fringe-ideology frontrunner – and Anderson as a well-qualified alternative.

 “Tina and the secretary of state [Griswold] are going hammer and tongs, blasting each other in the media all the time,” O’Donnell said. “And then at the other end, you’ve got Pam and Tina going at each other.”

Four independents also are running: Libertarian Bennett Rutledge, American Constitution Party’s Amanda Campbell, Unity Party’s Gary Swing and Approval Voting Party’s Jeff Orrok. Most are aware that their campaigns don’t stack up to the Democrat and Republicans.

Looking ahead to the general election, Swing said Anderson and Griswold “have a realistic chance of being elected,” compared with the volatility of a Peters candidacy.

“If the Republicans nominate Tina Peters, I think they’re going to be slaughtered in the election. They’re going to lose by landslide. And it makes a spectacle out of the whole process,” he said.