DENVER – False election conspiracy theories permeated the Colorado Republican state assembly over the weekend, and some of the people who have pushed the false notions about mail ballots and the 2020 election will be on the ballot – sometimes in the top slot – for this summer’s Republican primary.
Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, who has been indicted by a grand jury and faces several felony charges tied to allegations she helped breach the county’s election system, took home 60% of the vote to get the top line on the GOP primary ballot for the secretary of state’s race.
Whether or not other candidates supported her and her efforts seemed to have a say on how the roughly 3,700 delegates voted in placing candidates on the ballot despite the leadership of the Colorado Republican Party, including chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown, calling for Peters to suspend her campaign after she was indicted.
Greg Lopez, the former Parker mayor who took third place in the 2018 Republican primary for governor, will be on the top of the primary ballot for governor after he pledged to pardon Peters should she be convicted and he become governor.
And Rep. Ron Hanks, the Cañon City state representative who attended the Jan. 6 rally at the U.S. Capitol that preceded the riot and who continues to falsely maintain that Donald Trump won the 2020 president election, will have his name atop the U.S. Senate primary ballot.
His strong showing at the assembly left five others off the ballot, and Hanks will face Joe O’Dea in the primary, a construction company owner who has not claimed the 2020 election was stolen, according to CPR News.
Many delegates also unsuccessfully tried to get the assembly to switch to paper ballots, though Burton Brown shut those efforts down. But later on, according to the Colorado Sun, delegates voted to change the party platform to seek changing Colorado from its mail-ballot system to hand-counted ballots.
Former House Minority Leader Patrick Neville approved a motion to nominate Joe Oltmann, another conspiracy theorist who is being sued by a former Dominion Voting Systems employee for defamation, for governor, according to the Colorado Times Recorder. But he declined the nomination.
Peters, who has received praise from Oltmann as well, will face former Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder Pam Anderson and Yuma County's Mike O'Donnnell in the primary. Anderson has been among the Republican voices working to dispel the falsehoods spread by Peters and others, and O’Donnell also made the ballot Saturday after calling for changes to Colorado’s mail-ballot system, the Colorado Sun reported.
Danielle Neuschwanger, who was seeking a spot on the gubernatorial primary ballot but who fell just short of the 30% threshold needed to qualify for the ballot at the assembly, questioned the integrity of the vote and criticized Burton Brown.
“If the Colorado GOP cannot even ensure every vote counts at their own state assembly, what faith do the voters of Colorado have in the Republican Party?” she tweeted Monday morning after saying over the weekend she was refusing to concede “due to numerous delegates reporting fraudulent behavior.”
Delegates even voted for an unaffiliated voter from the audience, Stanley Thorne, to make the attorney general primary ballot to face 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner, though the Colorado Sun reported his name will not appear on the ballot because he was not registered as a Republican at the time.
The assembly came after a judge last week dismissed a lawsuit filed by John Eastman, who wrote memos regarding how former President Trump could try to overthrow the 2020 election results, that sought to block unaffiliated voters from participating in the June 28 Republican primary. Hanks was one of the plaintiffs in that lawsuit. Colorado voters approved a measure in 2016 allowing semi-open primaries in which unaffiliated voters can choose to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary.
The assembly process is the way for candidates to make primary ballots who did not go through the petition process, in which candidates gather enough valid voter signatures to make the ballot.
Over the weekend and on Monday, some more established Republican politicians in Colorado pointed out that many who win at the assembly do not fare nearly as well during the primary.
George Brauchler, the former 18th Judicial District Attorney and gubernatorial and attorney general candidate, said Monday he felt the assembly process was “on the verge of becoming irrelevant for major candidates in the future.”
“Why wouldn’t you just petition on and avoid all of that insanity?” he said. “…I’ve never seen anything like I saw in this particular assembly. I do not think that is representative of the party as a whole. I think it’s a small-fry fraction that are willing to do anything to get into power, and I think it’s appalling.”
Brauchler said he believes if Peters and Hanks win their primaries, it would have major and negative effects on the November election for Republicans.
“It’s not too far of a cry to think that the Democrats will make the entire campaign about everybody [only] about these two,” he said. “…I want the GOP to win here. I mean, listen, I think that Colorado was on the wrong track – undeniably on the wrong track. We have an opportunity to correct that, and I’m afraid we’re about to squander it because we want to fight in the rearview mirror instead of the front.”
Ryan Lynch, a Republican consultant who is the former executive and political director for the Colorado GOP, said he hopes the assembly voting does not reflect the overall will of Colorado Republicans and the unaffiliated voters who will vote in the GOP primary.
“What we learned was that you need to fully embrace fringe election fraud conspiracy theories in order to access the top line of the ballot,” he said Monday. “…I don’t believe that the delegate base represents Republicans in Colorado as a whole.”
He was among the Republicans who pointed to past failures on the primary ballot by past assembly winners, and said the process should be reformed. Lynch added that Republicans in Colorado need to do all they can to win back seats even in a year where they are expected to make gains nationally.
“If even 5% of Republicans stay home in November, we’re going to lose,” he said. “So, we can’t continue down this path as we get closer to November and expect to win elections here.”
The primary election will be held on June 28, and unaffiliated voters will be able to choose whether to vote on the Republican or Democratic ballot.