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Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina ...
Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post
Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters is in the rally at west steps of Colorado State Capitol building in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. Candidates for higher office continue to try to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 election and integrity of Colorado elections as the 2022 election draws closer.
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Election deniers received the support of the Colorado Republican Party faithful on Saturday as delegates voted to put candidates such as indicted secretary of state candidate Tina Peters and U.S. Senate candidate Ron Hanks on the GOP primary ballot.

Multiple candidates, delegates and attendees delivered a clear message at the event: They still don’t trust Colorado’s elections or the results of the 2020 presidential election.

That’s despite evidence pointing to the security of the state’s election systems and assurances from county clerks, including Republicans, that Coloradans can be confident in how their votes were counted.

Candidates for statewide offices made their cases at the World Arena in Colorado Springs, with present delegates voting to determine which GOP candidates going through the assembly process would make it to the Republican primary. Candidates also had the option to petition onto the ballot, which some have done successfully.

To get onto the ballot, those running had to receive at least 30% of the vote. And election deniers such as Peters, the Mesa County clerk and recorder, and Hanks, a state representative, took the lead in their respective races. It also manifested in an update to the party platform to make the Republican Party’s official position to oppose mail-in ballots for every Coloradan except those physically unable to vote in person and active-duty military, and to call for a hand counting of ballots.

To make the support of election denying even more clear, election conspiracy theorist Joe Oltmann, head of FEC United, was nominated for governor from the floor at the event and gave a speech, before declining the nomination, putting his support behind Peters and Hanks.

Early in the event, a delegate made a motion to switch from electronic voting of candidates to paper ballots, which required three-fourths of the vote to pass. This comes days after Peters and other election deniers, including MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, rallied outside the state Capitol in Denver, peddling conspiracy theories.

Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown told the delegates that they had the opportunity to audit their own votes at the event. She warned that the party wasn’t prepared to handle paper ballots — counting ballots would take them well beyond midnight, when they could no longer be in the building, and they didn’t have the required watermarked ballots.

Although the motion failed, that didn’t stop delegates from bringing it up three more times, with another vote on the issue also failing. A request to consider a “forensic audit” also was denied.

Still, Burton Brown questioned the security of elections outside the arena and talked about pushing back on rules ordered by Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold, calling her a “partisan hack.”

“Who here wants reasonable audits of elections?” Burton Brown asked to applause. “Do you think Jena Griswold will give us audits?” to shouts of “no.” “We must elect Republicans who will,” Burton Brown said.

In her speech, Peters once again asserted that she was being targeted politically for exposing wrongdoing with voting machines as she is facing charges related to an election security breach, spurred by a grand jury indictment overseen by a Republican prosecutor.

But it was clear Peters had the support of attendees Saturday — they chanted her name, gave roaring applause when she was mentioned and stood applauding as she spoke.

Hanks, a prominent election denier, also was met with strong support from the crowd and candidates throughout the day, ultimately winning the most votes to make it onto the U.S. Senate Republican primary.

Peters received 60.57% of the vote in the secretary of state contest, with businessman Mike O’Donnell, who also cast doubt on the integrity of elections, receiving 39.43% of the vote. They will join Republican Pam Anderson, who has dismissed Peters’ election denial claims, on the primary ballot.

“They call us election deniers unfit to hold office and lunatics. … What I am is a heretic because I refuse to believe in their false religion of nationalized elections. And I refuse to participate in the sin of looking the other way now that the evidence has exposed their evil deeds,” Peters said.

U.S. Senate

A half dozen Republicans fought to land on the June 28 primary ballot to win the party’s nomination to take on U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in November. Hanks won the vote of nearly 40% of the delegates, and no other candidates cleared the 30% threshold. Deborah Flora came closest, with about 29%.

Hanks will face businessman Joe O’Dea for the chance to face Bennet. O’Dea made the primary ballot through the petition process.

In his speech, Hanks declared, to cheers from the thousands of attendees, that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election.

“When we saw what we saw on election night 2020, it changed everything, just like the changes we felt after 9/11,” Hanks said. “My mission as a state representative shifted to election integrity. I’ve been fighting for it ever since.”

He proudly announced his attendance of the Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded a mob of the former president’s supporters storming the U.S. Capitol and delaying the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory. Nothing has placed Hanks in the Capitol during the riot. He also boasted of being the only elected Colorado official to attend an election audit in Arizona and a Cyber Security Symposium hosted by Lindell.

He left the stage to chants of “Ron, Ron, Ron!”

Governor

The assembly voted to pit University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl against repeat contender Greg Lopez for the Republican nomination for governor. The two combined to clear the rest of the field. Danielle Neuschwanger landed third, with 27% of the delegate votes

Ganahl, elected in 2016, is the only Republican to hold a statewide office — a fact she touted as being “ballot tested.”

“Trust me, I know how to go toe to toe with liberals — I do it almost every day as a regent for the University of Colorado, one of the most liberal places in the state of Colorado,” Ganahl said.

She pledged to ensure Colorado students learn “ABCs and not CRTs,” increase oil and gas production and, like Lopez, to cut the size of state government. She also foreshadowed a pugnacious campaign after a brain tumor was removed 18 months ago.

“When they took out that tumor, they took out my filter, and I’m feistier than ever,” Ganahl said.

Lopez, who previously won a spot on the Republican primary ballot in 2018, opened his remarks with a pledge to “rebuild the Republican Party” and “starting today, we put people over politics.”

His additional promises include buying E470 and removing the tolls, to reduce crime and pardon Peters of alleged state crimes. He said she had been “falsely accused.”

Attorney general

In the attorney general race, two candidates made it onto the Republican primary ballot. One, John Kellner, is district attorney whose jurisdiction includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties. He replaced George Brauchler, who also ran for attorney general in 2018.

The second candidate, Stanley Charles Thorne, faced a pointed question from Brauchler over his credentials. The state attorney general needs to be bar-certified in the state. Thorne said he is not yet qualified for the position in Colorado but expects to receive “reciprocity” from Texas before the election.

Kellner received 57.2% of the vote to Thorne’s 42.58%.

Democratic state assembly

The Colorado Democrats also held their state assembly Saturday, although they gathered virtually and with predetermined outcomes with a slate of incumbents hoping to keep their seats this November.

Their virtual format drew a shot from Burton Brown, who accused the Democrats of being “afraid to meet in a building.”

Nico Delgado, a Democratic Party spokesperson, also criticized the rival party as “out of touch” with Coloradans.

“Out of a crowded field of unknown candidates, they’ve managed to choose insurrectionist Ron Hanks to take the top line on their primary ballot,” Delgado said. “This chaotic primary is just a choice between which out-of-touch Trump acolyte should lose to Michael Bennet in November.”