Republican Pam Anderson handily defeated two other candidates, including indicted Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, in Tuesday’s secretary of state primary in a major rebuke of Peters’ 2020 election denialism.
The Associated Press called the race on Anderson’s behalf at about 8 p.m. At that time, Anderson had received 45% of the vote, to Peters’ 25%. Mike O’Donnell, a nonprofit administrator from Yuma County, had 29% of the vote.
Anderson, a former Jefferson County clerk, will face Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold, whom Republicans have accused of politicizing the office that oversees elections and business filings.
The secretary of state contest drew national attention as a test of whether GOP voters would embrace the election conspiracies espoused by Peters, who ran on claims the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. Peters is accused of crimes in a breach of her county’s election system that she allegedly orchestrated.
Anderson, who also led the Colorado County Clerks Association and has worked as an election consultant, pledged during the primary to be a nonpartisan administrator.
“Colorado Republicans have nominated a professional, competent, experienced leader,” Anderson said in reaction to her victory. “And that’s a big deal. On the campaign trail, there are people of good conscience that have questions (about elections). We need someone who can answer them and not vilify people.”
Griswold, responding to Anderson’s win, touted her success at various voting reforms, including more ballot drop boxes and a statewide ballot tracking system.
“Whether you are a Republican, Democrat or unaffiliated voter — I will uphold your right to make your voice heard at the ballot box,” she said in a statement.
At Peters’ watch party at the Wide Open Saloon in Sedalia, a few dozen supporters gathered as the returns came in. When the first results were posted — showing Peters well behind — supporter Rich Wyatt stood to rally the crowd.
“Our people didn’t even vote until today,” he said. “If the vote is rigged, you’re going to see crazy stuff. Hold on tight. The wind’s going to blow, but we’re going to get through the storm.”
Peters, gathered with supporters, refused to accept defeat and claimed without evidence that the outcome had been manipulated. She said Colorado voting officials were “cheating” and had “flipped” the vote totals.
“It’s not over. Keep the faith,” she said.
Anderson will face an uphill battle against Griswold’s well-funded campaign. The Democrat has raised nearly $3 million and has at least $1.7 million in TV ad time booked for the fall
Anderson’s victory comes despite spending $124,000 less than Peters, who spent $183,000.
In addition to her campaign cash, Griswold will likely benefit from the $603,000 in cash held by super PAC Defend Democracy Fund, created to support the Democratic candidate for secretary of state.
But there are likely to be outside groups supporting Anderson as well.
During the primary, Defend Colorado spent nearly $495,000 on digital ads supporting Anderson and opposing Peters and Griswold. Citizens for Election Integrity spent more than $99,000 on TV ads opposing Anderson.
Peters was one of several GOP secretary of state candidates across the nation embracing false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. She spent campaign cash to visit Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort in May, and she held a campaign fundraiser in April featuring Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO who has widely promoted election conspiracies. On Friday, she attended a Grand Junction event featuring Lindell and other election deniers.
In March, a Mesa County grand jury indicted Peters in an alleged breach of her county’s election system, charging her with seven felonies, including attempting to influence a public servant and criminal impersonation, and three misdemeanors. The charges did not prevent Peters, who denies wrongdoing, from running for office.
GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown and others urged Peters to drop out of the contest after her indictment by a grand jury in March.
O’Donnell hedged on whether the 2020 election was stolen, instead focusing on what he said were issues with voter registration and emphasizing the office’s work with businesses.
Sun Staff Writer John Ingold contributed to this story from Sedalia. The Associated Press contributed to this report.