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Republican gubernatorial candidate and University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl responds to a question during a debate with Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, in Denver. (Olivia Sun/The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Heidi Ganahl, the Republican candidate for Colorado governor, is spending part of the final days of her campaign courting 2020 election deniers and asking local elections officials across the state to release more ballot-counting data in the name of “integrity.”

The moves come as she faces an uphill battle in her quest on Tuesday to defeat Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.

Ganahl first appeared Saturday on the podcast hosted by Sherronna Bishop, also known as “America’s Mom,” a prominent ally of indicted Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. Bishop has repeatedly raised doubts about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and questioned the legitimacy of Colorado’s voting systems and apparatus. Her house has been searched by the FBI in connection with the investigation into Peters, who is accused of crimes in a breach of her county’s election system.

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Ganahl promised during her appearance on Bishop’s podcast to form an election integrity commission “right off the bat” should she be elected.  “I want to earn the trust of your supporters,” Ganahl said, also comparing herself to Kari Lake, the election denier running for governor this year in Arizona.

Then, on Sunday, Ganahl sent a letter to Colorado’s county clerks asking them to report on election night the total number of ballots they’ve counted and how many remain to be counted before stopping tabulation until Wednesday. Clerks can only estimate how many ballots are left to count and aren’t required to report that information, though they traditionally do so when requested.

“Nothing erodes confidence more than scores of unaccounted for ballots showing up in the days after the election,” Ganahl wrote in the letter. “I understand that Colorado is not a state where this traditionally happens, but we do not live in a bubble, and on a national level this has caused questions about the overall integrity of the process.” 

Ganahl added: “I applaud clerks that will be performing a concurrent hand count of ballots to verify the results of the tabulation system. I understand this process may not work in every county.”

Ganahl previewed the letter on Bishop’s podcast Saturday, and Bishop said she thought it was a good idea. “I really appreciate that,” Bishop said.

Ganahl indicated on the podcast that she worked on the idea for the letter with Bishop. “You and I are working on a letter to send to the county clerks about staying until every ballot is there and counted,” Ganahl said. “And I think that’s a great idea.”

Embattled Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, center left, and supporter Sherronna Bishop, center, address a crowd outside the Mesa County Courthouse on Oct. 11, 2021. (Nancy Lofholm, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Finally, Ganahl was endorsed late Sunday by Peters, whom Ganahl has repeatedly declined to condemn. In a video posted to Telegram, Peters said she talked with Ganahl and American Constitution Party candidate Danielle Neuschwanger.

“(Ganahl) has promised me that she will have an election task force on board when she takes the governorship,” Peters says on the video. “We want to join her, we want to vote for her, we want to support her. We want to beat Polis.”   

In a statement to The Colorado Sun on Monday, Ganahl’s campaign spokeswoman, Lexi Swearingen, said: “Heidi made the decision to write this letter with her campaign team in order to continue to build voter confidence in Colorado’s election system.”

Swearingen added: “Heidi is working very hard to unite our entire party and bring everyone together. It’s go time, and we need all Republicans to vote. Heidi will be a governor for all Coloradans. Everyone deserves to have their voices heard.”

Ganahl’s candidacy has been dogged since its start by questions about her stance on the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

She initially refused to say whether President Joe Biden was legitimately elected. She finally said in a June interview with The Sun and CBS4 that she had seen no fraud that would have overturned the outcome of the 2020 presidential contest. But then she chose a running mate, Danny Moore, who posted on Facebook in the weeks after the 2020 election that Biden won because of the “Democrat steal.”

Moore wrote in a July opinion piece in The Gazette, after he was selected as Ganahl’s running mate, that “I believe, and have always believed, that Joe Biden was legitimately elected president and that he is our commander in chief.” 

Ganahl is expected to lose to Polis on Tuesday, but by rubbing shoulders with election deniers in the home stretch of the 2022 election she is complicating efforts by other GOP statewide candidates to denounce baseless claims that Biden wasn’t the true winner in 2020 and instead focus on inflation and crime. 

Ganahl has previously said she would “absolutely” accept the results of the gubernatorial election if she loses to Polis.

It appears every county clerk received the letter from Ganahl, Colorado County Clerks Association director Matt Crane said. He cautioned that while clerks will often provide estimates of ballots left to be cast when election night counting stops, they are only estimates.

“When clerks get asked that question by stakeholders, they provide it,” he said. “County clerks will count ballots according to the law. The law is clear about how we’re supposed to do that and we’re not going to vary.”

Crane said clerks are concerned that many voters are waiting until late in the day Tuesday to deliver ballots or cast them in person. If that happens, especially in larger counties, it could slow vote counting.

“It’s setting up that we could have some close races, if we do and we get a lot of people late on election day, it could be a lot longer before we get any clarity on who wins these close races,” he said.

Sandra Fish

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @fishnette

Jesse Paul

The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is...