Briefline

GOP candidates push anti-mandate, election conspiracy messages at Fort Collins forum

By: - February 21, 2022 2:59 pm

Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters speaks at a Republican candidate forum in Fort Collins on Feb. 20, 2021. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)

As Republican supporters gathered on Sunday night to hear from conservative candidates for governor, U.S. Senate and local races, they heard a nearly universal message against pandemic restrictions, critical race theory in schools and the current Democratic leadership.

“Republicans are finally aligned on our messaging. As you hear all of us speak, you’re going to hear a lot of the same things. I don’t think there’s a lot of argument about what we need to do once we win,” gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl said.

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Ganahl, a University of Colorado regent, was one of 11 candidates invited to speak at a Feb. 20 event hosted by the Colorado Conservative Patriot Alliance at a restaurant in Fort Collins, billed as a candidate meet and greet with time for short stump speeches. The group is a far-right advocacy organization that does voter education and organization. It claims to reject “political correctness, cancel culture, critical race theory, cultural Marxism, and the Progressive ideology,” according to its website mission statement.

Other candidates who spoke included gubernatorial candidates Danielle Neuschwanger and Greg Lopez; U.S. Senate candidates state Rep. Ron Hanks, Gino Campana, Peter Yu and Deborah Flora; state House District 46 candidate Ryan Armagost; Larimer County sheriff candidates John Feyens and Jeff Fisher; and Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters as a last-minute addition.

In her speech, Neuschwanger spoke about her view that the state government abandoned its support for essential workers and law enforcement through its COVID-19 vaccine requirement. She said that she feels as though “1776 is upon us,” referencing the Revolutionary War. The year has become a symbol among the far-right for its own political revolution, and “1776” was chanted during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Neuschwanger praised the attendees at the event for their courage, saying that they are destined to take back the country from “tyrants and communists.”

“When Governor (Jared) Polis is ruining our economy and taking money out of your pockets and lining marijuana companies’ pockets, I believe that he belongs in a jail cell,” she said, with at least one person yelling “or worse” in response. Various far right activists have advocated the execution of public officials, including Polis and Secretary of State Jena Griswold, in recent weeks.

Hanks, a Republican from Canon City running for U.S. Senate, spoke about his belief in the conspiracy theory that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

“Before I was sworn in, I went to Jan. 6 in (Washington) D.C. to see what was happening with our country and our elections. I do believe that they were stolen,” he said to large applause.

There is no evidence that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election or that President Joe Biden is not the rightful winner, but the baseless claim still fuels far-right politics at every level.

“This whole campaign is about national security for me,” Hanks said. “I was an intelligence officer and intelligence specialist and we are under great threat. I see the threat as China. I see Biden as a puppet of China.”

Hanks said he would not vote for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as majority leader if Republicans regained control of the Senate in November and pledged to encourage shrinkage of the federal government to one-third of its current size.

Earlier in the weekend, Hanks attended an election integrity conference in Colorado Springs, and he said that he and Peters drove up to Fort Collins together from that event.

Peters, who is under multiple investigations into her conduct as county clerk, spoke at the end of the event despite not being scheduled. She announced last week that she is running for secretary of state, though she has not officially filed to do so and still has an active campaign for re-election in Mesa County.

“Want to know why I’m running for secretary of state? I’m running because the faith in the integrity of our elections has never been lower,” Peters said. “Both Democrat and Republican voters have seen the rushed software updates to voting machines immediately after the 2020 election. I monitored these so-called updates with my own eyes and hands.”

During a routine “trusted build” software update after the 2020 election, Peters allegedly allowed an unauthorized person into the room, which resulted in a security breach. The equipment had to be decertified and replaced. She was then barred from overseeing the 2021 coordinated election and might not be able to run the 2022 primary or general elections.

Peters is currently under a grand jury investigation for that conduct and is the subject of multiple campaign ethics complaints.

“Those in power do not want transparency. They do not want their unfair advantages to be removed,” she said of current Democratic state leadership. “They don’t want every legal vote to count. They just want to win at all costs.”

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Colorado.

The Colorado Conservative Patriot Alliance live streamed the event and the video is available on their Facebook page.

Republican primaries in Colorado are on June 28 and the general election is on Nov. 8.

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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