Election denial center stage as GOP secretary of state candidates face off in debate

Republican hopefuls discuss abortion, fentanyl, 2020 election ahead of June primary

By: - May 23, 2022 4:45 am

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters speaks at a GOP primary debate at the Grizzly Rose in Denver May 21, 2022. (Zoe Schacht/Colorado Newsline)

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters made attacks on Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold a focal point of her pitch to Republican primary voters during a Saturday debate in Denver.

A district court judge recently sided with Griswold in a lawsuit the secretary brought against Peters, barring the clerk from overseeing elections in her county. But Peters, who is running for secretary of state, claimed innocence during the debate, which was hosted by several Republican organizations at the Grizzly Rose concert hall.

“She knows that I know where the bodies are buried, and she knows I’m coming after her,” Peters said.

The 2020 election results and election security were prominent issues at the debate. Peters and Mike O’Donnell, also a Republican secretary of state candidate, shared what they saw as a need for more secure elections. O’Donnell said he wants voters who have died removed from voter rolls and higher regulation of mail-in ballots. He also said he believes county clerks and the secretary of state should receive election training.


Peters is currently under indictment for giving unauthorized access to county voting equipment, causing an alleged security breach. The candidate was critical of Senate Bill 22-153, which increases election security measures, calling it “tyranny.” Later in the debate, she was vocal about her belief that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

Colorado’s primary election is June 28. Republican candidates for secretary of state, state attorney general, representative for the 8th Congressional District, governor, state treasurer, state Board of Education at-large and the U.S. Senate were all present at Saturday’s debate. Pam Anderson, a secretary of state candidate, was absent due to her daughter’s graduation. Lori Saine, a Weld County commissioner and a leading Republican candidate for the 8th Congressional District seat, was unable to participate in the event after failing to RSVP.

The new 8th District seat will be crucial in deciding control of the House, which currently has a slim Democratic majority. Candidate Jan Kulmann said the seat is an opportunity for Republicans to “take back the House.”

Governor candidates Greg Lopez and Heidi Ganahl discussed their beliefs around abortion, climate change and what changes they want to see at the state level.

Colorado governor candidate Greg Lopez shares his “pro-life” stance on abortion at a GOP primary debate held at the Grizzly Rose in Denver, May 21, 2022. (Zoe Schacht for Colorado Newsline)

The conservative candidates criticized Colorado’s new Reproductive Health Equity Act. Lopez said he is “pro-life” with no exceptions, including for incest and rape. State Rep. Ron Hanks, a U.S. Senate candidate, holds a similar view, believing that life begins at conception.

“As it stands right now, Colorado is in a bad spot based off of legislation that we fought so hard to push back against,” said Hanks. “But, if we work to get conservatives — keyword conservatives, not Republicans, conservatives — in the state House and the state Senate, we have the opportunity to define what Colorado wants. It’s not coming from (Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer) and this leftist cabal that does not believe life begins at conception.”

Both Ganahl and Lopez said water is an important issue in the state, and farmers and ranchers should have priority in accessing it. Lopez wants Colorado to limit population growth to control the demand for water in the state. However, when the two discussed climate change, neither candidate identified it as a priority.

Ganahl said if she is elected governor she plans to reduce the size of state agencies overseeing public health and transportation. However, the candidate said she wants to lower suicide rates and reduce illegal drug use across the state. She also said she wants to cut income taxes to zero percent in her first term but, when asked, did not reveal how she plans to do so.

Ron Hanks, left, and Joe O’Dea go head-to-head in a heated GOP primary debate at the Grizzly Rose in Denver on May 21, 2022 (Zoe Schacht for Colorado Newsline)

Many candidates mentioned a desire to build a wall at the U.S. border with Mexico. Hanks believes the country needs to “secure” its border to handle the ongoing fentanyl crisis.

Hanks and his Republican opponent, Denver construction executive Joe O’Dea, spent most of their debate time going head-to-head on issues, with O’Dea claiming Hanks does not “show up to work” at the General Assembly.

Nico Delgado, a spokesperson for the Colorado Democratic Party, said that Hanks and O’Dea used the debate “to tear each other down and expose their far-right agenda that is too out of touch for Colorado.”


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Zoe Schacht
Zoe Schacht

Zoe Schacht is a freelance journalist and former reporter for Colorado Newsline. When she was a student at the University of Colorado Boulder, Zoe was Editor-in-Chief for the CU Independent, where she gained a passion for journalism and storytelling.