Meet the Democratic candidate trying to unseat Rep. Lauren Boebert

On the heels of a slim victory in the Democratic primary, Adam Frisch is preparing to explain to Colorado — and the nation — why he thinks his candidacy for the state’s 3rd Congressional District against incumbent Rep. Lauren Boebert is worth paying attention to.

“We think this is worthy of a national-attention race, because she is so loud, so extreme and so vulnerable electorally,” Frisch, 54, told Colorado Newsline. “We’re going to make a case that there is a moderate Democrat who wants to go work in a bipartisan manner.”

Frisch, a former Aspen City Council member and small business owner, secured the Democratic nomination for the district in the June primary, beating Sol Sandoval by a few hundred votes. He entered the race relatively late — he launched his primary campaign in February compared to Sandoval’s yearlong effort — and fueled the campaign with his personal wealth and a few thousand miles of driving time to put his face in front of voters in the sprawling district that encompasses the Western Slope, San Luis Valley and hooks east into Pueblo County.

He emerged victorious, but faces a much steeper battle now in facing off with Boebert in the November general election. The district has a 9-point Republican advantage following last year’s redistricting process, according to a redistricting commission staff analysis.

Shortly after his primary victory, Frisch traveled to Washington, D.C., and New York City to meet with national party figures and others in an effort to boost his profile and attract donors.

“I’m fully aware that we are rowing upstream when it comes to national conversations,” he said. “But the reason I can look people in the eye and say we do have a path to victory is because of the outlandish antics and the lack of focus from Lauren Boebert.”

Boebert has earned a reputation as one of the most conservative members of Congress and has sparked controversy over actions such as islamophobic remarks and interrupting President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address.

Frisch’s motivation to seek office

Frisch was born in North Dakota and spent the first five years of his life on a Native American reservation in Montana, where his father worked in public health. He grew up ski racing and attended the University of Colorado Boulder, where he graduated in 1990 with a degree in economics and political science.

He worked in finance in New York City and moved to Aspen in 2003 with his wife, Katie. He served on the Aspen City Council from 2011 and 2019 and said he is most proud of his work on affordable housing and serving the local small business community during his tenure.

Frisch began looking at the numbers last fall to inform his decision on whether to run for the congressional district, sparked by an inflammatory remark Boebert made (he couldn’t remember which one). He saw her 51% victory in 2020 and the anti-Trump organizations that sprung up since 2016, and thought that the right candidate could convince enough Boebert voters to switch over in light of her performance in Congress.

“Maybe every knucklehead who thinks about running for office thinks ‘Only me,’ but I looked around and thought ‘Who else could really do it?’” he said. He said he did not see a path to victory for the other Democratic candidates in a district composed of about 24% Democratic voters, 31% Republican voters and 43% unaffiliated voters.

When his son and wife told him they thought he’d have a shot at winning, he said he wasn’t sure the Democratic Party was looking for a “successful, middle-aged, white, straight businessman, let alone from Aspen” to take on Boebert, especially in a district with a large rural and Hispanic population.

“But I thought about it a little bit more. I make up for my lack of intelligence in building good relationships and building coalitions and moving the ball forward,” he said.

Frisch said he thinks his balance of moderation and pragmatism will be attractive to many of those voters disaffected by Boebert.

His numbers game initiated by Boebert’s narrow 2020 victory was bolstered last month by the outcome of the district’s primary, he said, when approximately 55% of voters chose a candidate other than Boebert. In the Republican primary, challenger state Sen. Don Coram captured about 36% of the vote, which Frisch sees as an opportunity. Not every Coram voter will vote for him, but some might.

“We’ll go after these Don Coram voters,” he said. “I think a third of them are not going to talk to a Democrat no matter what. But I do believe that the rest will sit through a lunch with me and listen to me tell my story, talk about how rural America has been left behind by both parties, and that we want someone who is going to focus on the district and take the job seriously.”

Frisch will need to perform some impressive political gymnastics, however, to get close to Boebert as far as name recognition and fundraising. Boebert’s national profile also attracts national dollars. As of the most recent Federal Elections Commission filings, Boebert had about $2.3 million in cash on hand compared to Frisch’s $570,000. Boebert also has the financial advantage of contributions from national super PACs and money leftover from her first campaign. Frisch loaned himself over $2 million during the primary campaign, which was undoubtedly helpful in boosting his profile to voters and clinching the nomination.

Frisch said his campaign will not be shy about telling his story at the national level and in Democratic stronghold cities in order to raise money, but he is also confident he will be able to raise a larger proportion of money from Coloradans than Boebert. His connections in a wealthy town like Aspen, where potential donors vacation and might have an interest in the area’s congressional representation, could be helpful as well.

“We don’t think resources would be the reason we come up short against Boebert. Our team has the financial wherewithal to do it,” he said.

A focus on inflation, water and rural interests

Frisch said that his main legislative priorities in Congress would be strengthening the economy and reducing inflation, focusing on water issues and expanding rural services.

He said he wants to focus on the rural aspects of “big, chunky” areas of policy like health care and education. He noted the reduction of hospital and mental health services in rural Colorado counties over the past decade and wants to work with other representatives from rural parts of the country to figure out how to put those interests back into the conversation.

“Instead of spending time on Twitter or cable news networks or Mar-a-Lago, I think a lot of the grunt work gets done at the subcommittee and committee level. I know that’s not what Lauren Boebert is focused on. We’re going to be focused on doing the boring, grinding work on really important issues,” he said.

He said he recognizes that inflation and the economy will likely be huge driving forces in this election, and that his business experience and understanding of economics will make him a strong problem solver in that area.

Frisch said he wants to be part of the Problem Solvers Caucus if elected, which has members from both parties and is committed to finding common ground on issues. One issue Frisch said he would not compromise on, however, is reproductive health care access in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“It’s important to realize that the conversation won’t be about whether abortion is going to happen or not,” he said. “It will be about how safe and accessible they are and the equity aspect to that. It is important to hold the ground and make sure women have health care access across the country.”

Frisch plans to hit the road again soon in his “Beat Boebert Buggy” to visit with voters across the district. Voters can find out more about his platform and upcoming events online at

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

NOW WATCH: Jon Stewart slams the GOP for killing veterans bill

Jon Stewart slams the GOP for killing veterans bill

Arrest warrant issued for Tina Peters after the conservative clerk allegedly violates protection order

An arrest warrant was issued Thursday for indicted Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters after she allegedly violated a protection order and her bond conditions by contacting an employee of the Mesa County elections division.

The warrant alleges that Peters sent an email on Wednesday to Mesa County Elections Director Brandi Bantz — with whom she is barred from having contact — seeking a recount of votes in the June 28 Republican primary for secretary of state. Peters lost that race. The warrant was sought by the Fruita Police Department.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel first reported the arrest warrant and Peters’ effort to email election officials about the recount.

Peters previously requested a recount from the secretary of state’s office but did not provide the roughly $250,000 necessary for the effort.

Peters was on the verge of arrest last week as well after she violated the conditions of her bond and traveled to Las Vegas without court approval. A district court judge quashed that warrant after Peters’ attorney took the blame for failed communication about the procedure to request travel between Peters and the court.

Peters, an election conspiracy theorist who denies the results of the 2020 presidential election, is under a grand jury indictment for allegedly facilitating a security breach in her county’s elections office during a software update last year. She will be in Mesa County District Court for that case in early August.

Peters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Colorado Republican Heidi Ganahl selects election denier Danny Moore as running mate

Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl announced Monday that she selected former head of Colorado’s Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission Danny Moore as her running mate. Moore was removed from his leading role in the commission over social media posts he made spreading the false claim that widespread voter fraud cost former President Donald Trump a second term.

“Danny is a wonderful addition to our winning team. We share a common vision to lower Colorado’s soaring cost of living, gas prices, crime rates, and a commitment to making our children the priority,” Ganahl said in a statement. “Together we will undo Jared Polis’ far-left policies that continue to make it impossible for hard-working Coloradans to make ends meet. We will unite Colorado behind a vision of prosperity.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl selected Danny Moore as her running mate. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission)

Moore is a retired Navy master chief with 24 years of service. He is the owner and founder of technology companies DeNOVO Solutions and Thornberry Consulting.

Gubernatorial candidates select their own picks for lieutenant governor in Colorado. Democratic incumbent Gov. Jared Polis is once again running with Lt. Gov Dianne Primavera.

“I am honored to be selected to run as Lt. Governor on the ticket with Heidi Ganahl,” Moore said in a statement. “She is a ‘Mom on a Mission’ and successful CEO who is ready to restore leadership and ensure our state gets our children back on track, creates an economy that does not strangle hard-working Coloradans, builds neighborhoods that are safe, and stands up for and respects our rural communities.”

In January 2021, Moore posted on Facebook without evidence that mail-in ballots cause voter fraud and that Democrats stole the presidential election, as first reported by 9News. The claim that the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate because of widespread voter fraud has been debunked by courts, election officials and those within Trump’s inner circle.

The redistricting commission then voted unanimously to remove Moore as chair after he refused to resign, though he remained on the commission.

For most of her primary campaign, Ganahl refused to answer whether the 2020 presidential election was stolen and parried by saying Joe Biden is president.

Colorado Politics originally reported that Ganahl’s choice for lieutenant governor would be Las Animas County Commissioner Felix Lopez but later took the story down when her campaign said Lopez was not the pick.

Ganahl faces Polis in the November general election. As of June 22, she had about $50,000 in campaign funds compared to Polis’ $4.7 million.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Democrat Adam Frisch to face Lauren Boebert in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District race

Former Aspen City Council member Adam Frisch won the Democratic nomination in Tuesday’s primary for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, edging out Pueblo activist Sol Sandoval by under 2,000 votes.

“We’re really excited about getting into the general election. I think this district is ready for a representative who is not going to be leading the anger-tainment industry. We can do better, and we will do better,” Frisch said in a video posted to his Facebook page Tuesday night when it appeared likely he would be victorious.

Incumbent Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert is known for her controversial and often adversarial remarks. Boebert defeated a primary challenge Tuesday night and will compete with Frisch in November.

Frisch captured just over 24,000 votes, winning by large margins in counties along the Western Slope. Sandoval carried Pueblo County and the San Luis Valley and ended up with about 22,500 votes. A third candidate, political newcomer Alex Walker, received about 8,700 votes.

In a Wednesday tweet, Frisch thanked Sandoval and Walker for a “hard fought and inspiring race” and called for unity in order to defeat Boebert in the fall.

Frisch served on the Aspen City Council from 2011 until 2018.

He will enter the general election campaign with about $630,000 in cash on hand. He has contributed over $2.2 million of his own money to his campaign so far.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Lauren Boebert denies fraud allegations: 'Another swing and miss from a partisan political group'

Colorado officials will review an allegation that Rep. Lauren Boebert falsified mileage reports during 2020 and used reimbursements from her campaign fund to pay off tax liens on her restaurant.

The American Muckrakers PAC — the same group that released compromising videos of Rep. Madison Cawthorn that may have aided in his recent primary defeat — wrote to the Colorado Attorney General’s office about the matter on June 1, as first reported by the New York Times.

The office reached out to the Colorado Department of Revenue and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment for investigative support on the issue, Janet Drake, the deputy Colorado attorney general for criminal justice, wrote in a June 7 email to Muckraker founder David Wheeler.

The allegations stem from an April 2020 quarterly campaign finance report and December 2020 post-general report that show two payments totaling $22,259 made to Boebert, a Republican from Silt, from her own campaign for mileage reimbursement. That total equates to nearly 39,000 miles driven using the Internal Revenue Service’s mileage rate, a nearly impossible distance to drive during the time period.

An amended report lowered the reimbursement amount to $17,280 and listed other travel expenses such as hotel rooms.

In late 2020, Boebert also paid off nearly $20,000 in state tax liens against her restaurant, the firearm-themed Shooters Grill in Rifle.

A combination of liens totaling approximately $19,000 were satisfied on Oct. 22, 2020. The largest mileage reimbursement payment of about $21,200 is dated Nov. 11, 2020, in the finance report.

The American Muckrakers PAC believes Boebert used that campaign reimbursement to pay the liens, which would be illegal.

“As you are both fully aware, utilizing an illegal source of funds or ill-gotten funds to pay off a tax lien is illegal in Colorado and under Federal law,” Wheeler wrote in his initial letter to Attorney General Phil Weiser and Colorado Department of Labor and Employment Executive Director Joseph Barela.

“In other words, you cannot use federal campaign funds to pay off your tax liens by reimbursing yourself for miles you didn’t drive. That is the very definition of ill-gotten funds. We believe Rep. Boebert did exactly this. Where did she get the funds to pay off this lien is the ultimate question?” he wrote.

While the Muckrakers posted a PDF of all related documents, including the email Drake sent to him about involving the Department of Revenue and the Department of Labor and Employment, Lawrence Pacheco, a spokesperson for the attorney general, declined to confirm the involved agencies. He wrote in an email that the office “referred (the complaint) to the appropriate agencies to evaluate the allegations and whether any legal actions are justified, which is our standard practice.”

The PDF also includes a Newsline story about Boebert’s payment of the taxes.

Boebert refuted the allegations.

“This is another swing and miss from a partisan political group,” she said in a statement emailed by her campaign. “These false charges from 2020 have already been dismissed by the Federal Election Commission and disproven by the press. I represent over 50,000 square miles of Colorado; I connect with the people I serve rather than sitting at home in a basement like most Leftists.”

The Federal Election Commission dismissed a complaint about the mileage reimbursement issue earlier this year.

Boebert, a controversial freshman representative known for her inflammatory remarks, is running for reelection in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. She faces a primary challenger in state Sen. Don Coram, a Republican from Montrose.

“Our coalition of Republicans, Democrats and Unaffiliated Coloradans are urging all voters and citizens to review the documents we’ve filed, then ask Boebert why she covered up this illegal activity and used donor money to pay her taxes? We hope voters will help us fire Boebert by supporting Don Coram for Congress. He’s sane and pays his taxes on time, every time,” Wheeler said in a statement.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on June 8, 2022, to include a statement from Rep. Lauren Boebert.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Facing ‘insider threats,’ Colorado steps up training curriculum for county clerks, election workers

An elections security bill signed by Gov. Jared Polis last week codifies the curriculum for the certification program county clerks and election workers must complete, a move that leaders hope will ensure clerk expertise and contribute to the professionalization of the industry.

“These certification programs really help bolster the knowledge and skills and abilities of the people that are working elections. In Colorado, this is the next step for that,” Matt Crane, the executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association said in an interview.

SB22-153 was billed by lawmakers as an attempt to limit “insider threats” to elections, such as the one Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters is alleged to have posed by facilitating a security breach in her county’s elections office in 2021. The law includes provisions such as physical security requirements and restrictions on who can access voting equipment.

It also puts certain certification program curricula into statute and requires clerks to complete the program, which is administered by the Secretary of State’s office, within six months of taking office or before they oversee their first election. Before, they had to pass the program within two years.

Specifically, the law mandates courses in general election law, the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, professional development, voter registration and list maintenance, accessibility, coordinated elections, the mail ballot and in-person voting process, voting systems testing, canvasses and risk-limiting audits. Those courses are the “floor, not the ceiling” of what should be offered, Crane said. Many of the topics are addressed in the existing curriculum.

The CCA played a role in crafting the legislation and making sure clerks’ priorities were met.

“After what we saw in Mesa County, we saw someone who I would classify as a low information clerk fall prey to the half-truths and lies about elections systems that were out there, not knowing she could completely invalidate those claims on her own,” he said.

Peters has frequently spread the baseless claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen due to voter fraud, which has been debunked by experts, courts and election officials from both parties. The Republican, who is running for secretary of state, is a hero among conspiracy theorists who believe there is widespread voter and election fraud in Colorado.

“It was a wow moment — like, how could she not know this?” Crane said. “And it was at that point we took a look at mandating that people get certified before they run their first election. We don’t think it’s an unfair expectation that people know their jobs before doing them.”

For most clerks, the certification is not an issue.

“I started taking some of the classes after I won my election. The reason I started to take them so early was because I found the content so helpful and valuable,” Boulder County Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick, a Democrat, told Newsline in an interview. She said she has taken most of the 30 or so courses offered.

To Fitzpatrick, it’s critical for clerks to know as much as possible about how elections function — from the high-level overview to the minutiae of list management — in order to combat misinformation and help skeptical voters trust the process.

“The more they arm themselves with information early on, the higher quality of service they will be able to provide to voters, and they’ll be able to know the reality and truth of what elections look like here in Colorado,” she said.

Colorado’s training program began in 2006 as a way for clerks and election staff to understand their often-complex job duties, as some county clerks come in with election experience while others have no background in it. Over the years, the curriculum has evolved to be job-specific, with tracks for roles like administrators, IT professionals, public outreach coordinators and overall managers.

El Paso County Clerk Chuck Broerman, a Republican, said the curriculum, while expansive, only scratches the surface of what a clerk needs to know. He is glad the new law expands and codifies topics.

“For the average citizen, they think an election is just a matter of printing some ballots, mailing them out, receiving them back and counting them. But we really have hundreds and hundreds of layers of steps and procedures and check offs we have to do,” he told Colorado Newsline.

In addition to the state certification, Broerman said he also holds a national certification in election administration.

What the training curriculum covers

The core classes in Colorado are online courses with a quiz at the end, which requires an 85% score to pass. Clerks and staff must also complete six electives and two classroom training sessions, though they can also substitute one classroom training for another elective. The courses are updated annually by the Secretary of State’s elections division and are always available except when the office is actively updating them.

As of last May, the certification curriculum was as follows, according to documents from the Secretary of State’s office:

  • Emphasis: Voter registration, clerical, administrative support, mapping, other county department
    • Basic core classes: Elections 101, Elections Security, Issues in Voter Registration, Overseas and Military Voting, Advanced Voter Registration and List Maintenance and Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (Part 1)
    • Suggested electives: Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (Part 2), Address Confidentiality, Ballot Access Beginning, Navigating Election Laws
  • Emphasis: Election judge training and/or recruiting, communications, public relations, voter outreach
    • Core classes: Elections 101, Elections Security, Issues in Voter Registration, Overseas and Military Voting and Watchers and Observers
    • Suggested electives: Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (Part 1), Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (Part 2), Voter Service and Polling Center Set up and Management
  • Emphasis: IT, data, security, voting equipment, operations, supplies, warehouse
    • Core classes: Elections 101, Elections Security, Issues in Voter Registration, Overseas and Military Voting, Logic and Accuracy Testing, Voter Service and Polling Center Set up and Management
    • Suggested electives: Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (Part 1), Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (Part 2)
  • Emphasis: Managers, leads, multiple job duties
    • Core classes: Elections 101, Elections Security, Issues in Voter Registration, Overseas and Military Voting, Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (Part 1), Navigating Election Laws
    • Suggested electives: Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (Part 2), Address Confidentiality, Ballot Access Beginning, VSPC Set up and Management, Advanced Voter Registration and List Maintenance

The online classes review the nuts and bolts of the topic, while classroom trainings offer hands-on experience and networking with other election workers in the region.

Some of those in-person courses include ballot design, advanced election security, ethics, the history of voting rights and media.

Another popular classroom training is the Election Preparedness for Infrastructure and Cybersecurity (EPIC) event, which was first held by former Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

It’s an armageddon-like exercise that puts election workers in an Election Day simulation where everything that can go wrong does: cybersecurity problems, snowstorms and a global pandemic, for example. The participants then brainstorm and work through contingency plans to run a successful election under those conditions.

“They throw everything but the kitchen sink at you that day, and that’s been something that has been new to us but has been very valuable for us as these threats come forward,” Broerman said.

It’s also an opportunity for clerks to share best practices with one another. A rural county can learn from an urban one, and vice versa.

“It was a good opportunity to practice what you would do, as well as network with some of the other counties and their staff to figure out how we can collaborate in the future, figure out what they’re doing, glean some lessons from that and improve our own procedures,” Fitzpatrick said.

Professionalism and the fight for credibility

Colorado has historically been a leader in professionalizing the elections industry, Fitzpatrick said, and a robust training program is part of that.

“Professionalization of the industry and a strong association is incredibly important because we’re able to go at this together versus go at it alone,” she said, specifically referring to the rise in misinformation and election denialism.

Through not only training, but also pushing legislation, collaborating and keeping a dialogue, clerks can get a better picture of how voters experience elections and work to find solutions that benefit the most people.

Of course, training also ensures competency.

“We welcome this. We want to be held to a high standard. It’s not something that we resist,” Broerman said. “It’s important for all of us to be the best at our craft and, quite frankly, we welcome the opportunity to take these classes and demonstrate to our citizens that we are professionals.”

With that competency comes credibility, and clerks can better communicate with voters about the process of free and fair elections. As false claims about the legitimacy of the electoral process swirl around on social media, clerks’ offices can be the first place people look to for answers.

“To be able to provide them with accurate information quickly is very important, especially in this era with so much mis- and disinformation that people are seeing online or hearing in their community,” Fitzpatrick said. “We want people to know that we are a trusted source of information.”

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Lauren Boebert and Don Coram clash at first debate ahead of GOP primary for Colorado’s 3rd District

State Sen. Don Coram tried to paint himself as a moderate, experienced alternative to incumbent U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert during the first debate between the candidates ahead of the Republican primary elections.

“As George Washington said in his farewell address, our biggest threat to our young republic is excessive partisanship. We have a nation that is so divided that they couldn’t agree on buying ice cream, and that needs to change,” Coram said during a debate Thursday morning at the Sky Ute Casino Resort in Ignacio. “I have been critical of the opponent’s record and I’d liken it to a new Denver football player, in that she throws a lot of passes but has zero completions. Who would be happy with that?”

Boebert leaned into the ideological differences between her and Coram, who has a history of bipartisanship during his time in the Colorado General Assembly.

“I ran as a conservative and I won as a conservative. I legislate as a conservative because I am one,” she said during her opening statement. “I will win this primary because I am the only conservative in this race.”

She called it a “bipartisan” debate, though they are both Republicans.

The split was obvious elsewhere: The approximately 300 attendees clearly separated themselves based on candidate preference, with one side of the event space pro-Coram and the other pro-Boebert.

The debate was the first in-person encounter between the two candidates in one of the state’s most anticipated primaries in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. It was moderated by Dave Woodruff, the Durango chapter president of the Colorado Restaurant Association. Candidates had two minutes to respond to pre-written questions, and then had the opportunity to ask one another questions at the end.

Marina Zimmerman, who did not make it on the Republican primary ballot but is running as a write-in candidate for the general election, did not participate.

Boebert was first elected in 2020 after defeating longtime Rep. Scott Tipton. Coram, of Montrose, was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2010 and the state Senate in 2018.

Though Coram’s campaign claimed that the candidates agreed on a “paper and pencil” policy — meaning they could have paper on stage to take realtime notes but could not bring prepared information — Boebert had pre-written notes she referenced frequently throughout the debate.

“She shows up with a notebook of answers already, and I’m up there with not even a piece of paper. I thought that was a bit disingenuous, but I also realize that’s her only operative, because she can’t think on her feet,” Coram told reporters afterwards.

Gun policy in the wake of Uvalde

The first question revolved around this week’s mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman murdered 19 elementary school children and two teachers. The candidates were asked what role Congress has in reducing mass shootings and what reforms, if any, they would support.

Coram responded that he wants to prioritize mental health support, a common Republican response to gun reform questions.

“Republicans and Democrats, for years, have talked about mental health. Mental health is the cause of a lot of the problems that we have in these shootings. But we have not put the commitment together to fund the necessary treatment and address those issues,” he said.

The Uvalde shooter had no known history of mental health problems, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday.

Boebert, who is a vocal supporter of gun rights and owns a firearm-themed restaurant, said that additional laws won’t fix the problem, as criminals will just disregard them.

“We cannot legislate away evil,” she said. “We need to be able to arm and protect ourselves. Moms need to be able to have a tool — an equalizer — to protect their children. Our teachers need to be well equipped and trained and certified to also protect our children.”

She said she wants the state to use excess federal ARPA funds to “secure” schools, which would include increasing police presence on campus.

Boebert ‘proud’ of voting against presidential election results

Boebert used a question on election integrity to spread baseless claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. She pointed to debunked anecdotes of “hundreds of thousands of ballots” going out illegally and the presence of “illegal drop boxes.” Claims of election fraud have been repeatedly debunked by experts, courts and election officials from both parties.

Boebert voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

“I am proud that the first major action that I took in the House of Representatives was to vote to not certify some of the electoral college results from the 2020 elections,” she said.

She said she opposes any federal election legislation.

“We do not need a D.C.-takeover of any of our elections,” she said. “That should go to the states.”

Coram agreed that elections are local and state issues but said he has yet to see any evidence of fraud in the 2020 election.

“I’m not denying that it may be there, but I want to see it in a court of law. I look forward to 2022 and 2024, rather than a theory that might have happened in 2020,” he said.

Immigration reform

Boebert said one of the “greatest experiences” she has as a representative is attending citizenship ceremonies with people who “did it the right way.” She reiterated her common talking point that “every state is a border state,” including Colorado.

She also attacked Coram’s 2021 vote in favor of creating the Colorado Office of New Americans, which is intended to be the point of contact for immigration issues in the state.

“My opponent voted yes for that Department of Illegal Immigration,” she said.

Coram defended that vote, saying it is important for the state to know the number of immigrants, documented or otherwise.

“I’m not in favor of illegal immigration, either,” he said. “But they are here, and we have a responsibility — you, the citizens of Colorado. Their children can go to school. They are entitled to medical care. They are human beings who deserve representation and the love of God.”

His response was met by boos from Boebert’s supporters.

Coram said he would also support a system that allows non-resident workers to come to the United States to work, such as a “red card” program that gives permits for employment without the promise of citizenship or residency.

Wildfires, water, natural resources

Both Boebert and Coram agreed that Colorado’s forests need to be managed better to prevent wildfires and that it should start locally.

“The people on the ground are great,” Coram said. “But the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., have no idea what the forests in Colorado look like, the health conditions of it. We have allowed the U.S. Forest Service for years and years to be totally mismanaged.” He said he is in favor of mechanical thinning and well-planned prescribed burns.

He said the government should enable innovation and technology to help predict and fight wildfires. And he connected wildfire mitigation with water issues.

“We are in a water crisis right now. I think it’s important we have someone who actually has a background of water knowledge and issues. That is what I’ll bring to the United States Congress,” he said.

To underline his understanding of water issues, he pointedly asked Boebert her thoughts on the public trust of water, a technical doctrine that has to do with water rights. Boebert said she would have to “look into it.”

Boebert touted legislation she introduced last year aimed at wildfire mitigation that would fund the removal of trees killed by bark beetles among other prevention programs. She described it as the most comprehensive forestry bill in decades.

She criticized the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to pause prescribed burns in the midst of expanding drought conditions to review protocol and decision-making processes.

“This decision will only result in more catastrophic wildfires this summer and more fuel will stay on the ground. I called them out for putting bureaucratic politics ahead of the people of Colorado. It’s not an actual solution,” she said.

Boebert mainly used the cross examination portion of the debate to claim Coram has used his elected office for personal gain — allegations Coram has denied — while Coram accused Boebert of “grandstanding.”

By the end, audience decorum had dwindled and the candidates used their closing remarks to further emphasize their differences in policy-making ideology.

“I would say that today has proven in this bipartisan debate that the contrast could not be bigger than Don Coram and me,” Boebert said.

Coram said that Boebert’s goal is to become a political celebrity.

“I’m just a legislator. I’m not an instigator. I’m not looking for a reality TV show. I’m looking to do a job,” he said. “I’m here to work. I’m a workhorse. I’m not a show horse, and I will do the job. I’ve proven that for 12 years.”

He also challenged Boebert to present concrete evidence of any corruption from his time in office.

To Coram, his success in the primary will be up to unaffiliated voters, who make up about 42% of the voters in the district. Some attendees on Thursday said they had switched their affiliation from Democrat to unaffiliated in order to vote for Coram in the primary. In Colorado, unaffiliated voters can vote in one party’s primary election. Whoever wins the Republican primary will have an advantage over the Democratic candidate in this district, which leans Republican by about 9 percentage points.

“The race is the unaffiliated,” he said. “There’s Democrats who are frustrated with their party. There’s Republicans who are frustrated with theirs, and they are migrating to the new majority.”

A second debate is in the planning stages and will likely be held in Pueblo. A virtual forum with both Democratic and Republican candidates in the district will be held on June 8. Primary elections are June 28.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Indicted elections clerk Tina Peters discloses campaign spending on Mar-a-Lago travel and ‘2000 Mules’ tickets

A finance report filed last week indicates Colorado secretary of state candidate Tina Peters used campaign money to fund a trip to Florida to attend a screening of a documentary focused on baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

On May 5, Peters attended a screening of “2000 Mules,” a film by conservative media personality Dinesh D’Souza, at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. The film falsely implies that rampant voter fraud compromised the 2020 presidential election, costing Trump a second term. Peters, the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder, has built her campaign around such claims of election fraud, which have been repeatedly debunked by experts, courts and election officials from both parties.


Mar-a-Lago has become a destination for conservative candidates seeking a Trump endorsement, but Peters has not received one.

Her campaign disclosed multiple expenditures apparently related to the trip on a May 16 finance report: about $473 for a Palm Beach hotel down the street from Mar-a-Lago, about $15 for a Starbucks order with the memo “FL trip,” and about $27 for an Uber ride with the memo “FL travel.” The campaign also listed about $400 for air travel and luggage fees.

Peters, currently the Mesa County clerk and recorder, is seeking the Republican nomination for secretary of state against Pam Anderson and Mike O’Donnell. Her campaign did not return a request for comment.

Colorado’s campaign and political finance manual states that “money spent on anything for the purpose of expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate is considered an expenditure.” Expenditures typically involve advertising costs, data acquisition, consulting costs or expenses for travel to campaign events around the state or district. Peters did not mention her candidacy when sharing photos of herself from the event on social media.

Additionally, Peters spent $800 for 40 tickets to the movie, which had a limited release in early May and is also available to watch online. Her campaign reported that expenditure on April 28, before the Florida trip.

Peters is mostly barred from leaving the state because of her recent grand jury indictment. She was allowed to travel to Florida, however, as reported by 9News.

She was indicted earlier this year on 10 counts, including seven felonies, in relation to a security breach of Mesa County’s election system. She was also recently barred from having a role in overseeing the 2022 primary and general elections.


Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Pro-Trump clerk Tina Peters hit with third ethics complaint after MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell blabs to reporters

Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission will review a third ethics complaint against Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters involving substantial alleged gifts from MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.

The commission determined that the complaint was non-frivolous during its May 17 meeting.

The complaint was filed by Anne Landman, a Grand Junction resident who filed the other two complaints to be reviewed by the commission. It stems from comments Lindell made to a 9News reporter during an April rally at the state Capitol that he has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to an out-of-state legal defense fund that supports Peters.

Peters, a Republican who is running for secretary of state, is the subject of multiple lawsuits and investigations related to her conduct as an elected official. She was indicted by a grand jury for her alleged role in facilitating a security breach to Mesa County’s elections systems during a software update in 2021. She also faces obstruction charges when she refused to comply with a search warrant after allegedly recording a court proceeding without permission.

Peters has historically directed her supporters to donate to her criminal defense legal fund through a Colorado-based site called, which has been taken down. The complaint notes that Peters removed the site after Landman’s January 2022 IEC complaint about the site was filed. Peters now directs financial contributions to the Lindell Legal Offense Fund, which does not list who it supports on its website, only that they are “vetted” by Lindell.

During the April rally, Lindell told a reporter he has put in “three, four, five, maybe $800,000” of his own money towards Peters’ legal defense. He denied a close, personal relationship with Peters.

The Colorado Constitution limits gifts that an elected official can accept from a non-relative or close friend to a $65 value.

Additionally, the complaint brings up a 2013 IEC decision that requires the public disclosure of donor names and financial contributions to legal defense funds.

“Peters has been operating under a cloud of secrecy as donors and the donated amounts have not been publicly disclosed. Indeed, a public official receiving approximately $800,000 from a single donor and unknown amounts from other donors triggers the concerns Advisory Opinion 13-01 (the 2013 opinion) seeks to avoid,” the complaint reads.

Landman’s two other complaints concern Peters’ initial legal defense fund and flights she took on Lindell’s private jet. Peters received a stay on the complaint about the flights until after district court proceedings that also involve the behavior are complete.

Landman runs a blog that focuses on western Colorado politics.

Peters has 30 days to respond to the newest complaint.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

'Let's Go Brandon' should not appear on Colorado primary ballot, judge rules

Republican congressional candidate Dave Williams will not have “Let’s Go Brandon” appear as a nickname on the June primary ballot, a Denver District Court judge ruled Wednesday.

“Upon consideration of all of this testimony, evidence, briefing, argument and authority the Court held a hearing today by videoconference and entered on the record findings of fact, conclusions of law and an order denying relief on the petition,” District Court judge Andrew McCallin wrote.

Williams, a state representative who is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn in Colorado’s 5th Congressional District, sought to have “Let’s Go Brandon” appear as part of his name on the primary ballot, claiming that it is a widely known nickname. The phrase originated last fall as an epithet against President Joe Biden when a reporter misunderstood a “F*** Joe Biden” crowd chant at a NASCAR race. The reporter was interviewing race winner Brandon Brown at the time and thought the crowd was cheering for him.

Since then, the phrase has been used by Republican critics of the president, including Rep. Lauren Boebert.

Williams sued earlier this month to have his name appear as “Dave ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ Williams” on the ballot after Secretary of State Jena Griswold denied his request. Candidates are allowed to have nicknames on the ballot as long as they don’t reference the name of a political party. McCallin, however, ruled that Griswold exercised appropriate authority when denying the nickname request on the basis that the phrase is a slogan, even though Williams had been using it as a nickname since at least early April.

“The Court’s decision today affirms that the content of the ballot is not a place for political gamesmanship. As Secretary of State, I will always protect Colorado voters’ right to accessible elections and that includes a ballot that is fair and transparent. My Office will continue to uphold Colorado Election law and safeguard voters’ right to make their voice heard,” Griswold said in a statement following the decision.

Williams plans to appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court. The timeline is tricky, as Griswold’s office needs to certify the primary ballot, including how candidate names appear, by Friday.

He also attacked the court when announcing the appeal plans. In a statement, Williams said that if the higher court does not hear his appeal, it is “derelict” in its duty and called for state lawmakers to remove the justices’ salaries.

“The Colorado Supreme Court should do its job and hear this appeal because the corrupt SOS shouldn’t be allowed to violate the rule of law,” he said. “The district judge agreed that my nickname was in compliance with state law but then granted authority to the SOS where none exists.”

Primary elections are on June 28.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Indicted Colorado clerk's election role up to Mesa County judge as testimony concludes

District Judge Valerie Robison will soon decide whether embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters can oversee this year’s elections, as testimony in a case seeking to block Peters as the county’s election official wrapped up this week.

Democratic Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold outlined conditions in January for Peters, a Republican, to act as Mesa County’s designated election official this year. When Peters refused to abide by those rules, Griswold’s office asked the court to issue an order barring Peters from overseeing the 2022 primary and general elections.

“Clerk Peters must follow the secretary of state. The idea that it’s a two-way street and clerks can run elections how they want hasn’t been the case since 1963,” Assistant Attorney General LeeAnn Morrill said during testimony.

“I would suggest to the court that both history and the law have a term for public officials who swear by an oath and don’t abide by it,” she said. “That term is faithless.”


A similar lawsuit last year successfully blocked Peters from participating in the 2021 coordinated general election.

Peters is in a web of legal troubles following her alleged facilitation of a security breach into the county’s election system during a 2021 software update. She allowed images to be made of election machine software and secure passwords to be leaked online, which led to the decommissioning of the county’s election machines. She faces a grand jury indictment of multiple felony and misdemeanor charges related to that conduct.

“We are seeking injunctive relief here. Injunction means equity, and equity means public interest,” Morrill said in closing arguments Thursday. “The public interest is: in the role of DEO, who is best positioned to best serve the voters of Mesa County in conducting the 2022 elections?”

The state argues that person is Brandi Bantz, an elections official who also has the support of the Mesa County commissioners.

Lawyers for the state are asking Robison to bar Peters, Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley and Second Chief Deputy Clerk Julie Fisher from acting as the county’s main election official. On Thursday, Fisher testified that she gave Knisley access to secure areas of the office after Knisley was placed on administrative leave in August. Peters named Fisher as a second deputy in December. Attorneys for the state argued that Fisher does not have enough relevant experience to successfully run an election and engaged in misconduct for helping Knisley.

The attorney for Peters, Scott Gessler, a former Republican Colorado secretary of state, argued that the current case is a repeat of last year’s lawsuit ahead of the 2021 election and questioned whether similar litigation will be brought up every year in a never-ending cycle.

“This should not be a case where the cake is baked already in advance. In other words, the secretary and the county litigated this stuff in 2021. They said there were all kinds of problems, and the court agreed with their request for relief with the declaration that Peters was untruthful. The secretary invites the court to simply rinse, wash and repeat,” he said.

“Is there no end to this court’s jurisdiction over the actions of 2021?”

Morrill, however, argued that Peters’ refusal to sign the secretary’s order in January created new facts in the case. She said the state did not ask the court last year to bar Peters from this year’s elections because it gave Peters an opportunity to change her behavior.

Question of free speech

One of Giswold’s conditions for Peters to run this year’s elections was for Peters to repudiate comments she made about the county’s Dominion Voting Systems election machines. In a Facebook Live broadcast from January, Peters said “We’ve got to get those machines so . . . they’re not able to do what they’re designed to do.” Griswold asserted those statements proved a willingness to compromise equipment.

Gessler said those statements, however, amounted to free speech and were no more than public criticism. He said that none of her statements show her intention to break the law.

“She’s entitled to criticize election procedures if she thinks they are wrong,” he said. “I understand people may dislike that and there’s certainly a lot of polarization in this country about that issue … and this case is squarely in the middle of that. But she still has that right, not only as an elected official but as a private individual under her First Amendment rights.”

In rebuttal, Morrill said Peters’ elected position limits her speech rights.

“Clerk Peters does not stand before you today in this proceeding as a private citizen, as an individual resident of Mesa County. She is named in her official capacity. As a result of that, it’s exactly right that the secretary of state is putting words in (her) mouth and making her repudiate certain public statements made to date,” she said.

She noted that the so-called government speech doctrine asserts that the government has its own rights as a speaker.

“It’s very clear that the state can put words in its political subdivisions’ mouth or it can take them out,” she said.

In the two days of testimony, the court heard from witnesses including Fisher, Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis, Deputy Secretary of State Christopher Beall and former Secretary of State Wayne Williams. Peters did not herself testify.

Robison said she will issue a decision by mid-May. Primary elections are June 28, and county election workers have already begun preparing for them.


Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Landmark bill affirming abortion rights signed into law by Colorado Gov. Polis

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law on Monday that codifies a person’s right to have an abortion, as the fate of Roe v. Wade hangs in the balance and as conservative state legislatures pass significant abortion restrictions.

“It’s likely only a matter of time that the federal protections at the Supreme Court simply cease to exist. We in Colorado simply don’t want to take that risk. We want to act proactively to protect the rights that women already have in federal precedent in state law,” Polis, a Democrat, said during the signing ceremony at the Governor’s Residence in Denver, surrounded by bill sponsors and supporters.

The state Legislature passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act along party lines last month after a historic 24-hour debate in the House of Representatives and 12-hour debate in the Senate fueled by Republican stall tactics.

The law affirms a person’s right to choose whether to have an abortion or continue a pregnancy and whether to use contraception. It prohibits state and local governments from denying, restricting or interfering with those reproductive rights and bans discrimination against people for their reproductive health care choices. It also declares that a fertilized egg, embryo or fetus does not have personhood rights.

In a signing statement to the state Legislature, Polis emphasized that the new law does not change much, but codifies existing protections.

“This bill will also prevent any person from being forced to end or continue a pregnancy, and ensure that no one is forced to perform or have an abortion against their will or conscience. Such is already the case in Colorado today. This bill simply maintains this status quo regardless of what happens at the federal level and preserves all existing constitutional rights and obligations,” Polis wrote.

Democratic sponsors introduced the bill in response to the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 precedent that protects the right to abortion, by a conservative United States Supreme Court. The court heard arguments for a case challenging a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi and could return a decision as soon as early summer. Legislatures in Texas, Arizona and Kentucky have all recently passed bills that ratchet back abortion rights.

RHEA faced fierce opposition from Republicans and anti-abortion activists, who crammed into the Capitol to testify against the bill during its committee hearings. On Monday, two protestors stood outside the signing ceremony.

“This is the response to the anti-abortion attacks that we’ve seen move forward in the courts and in conservative state legislatures across the country and that have been attempted right here in Colorado, despite repeated and overwhelming rejection by voters,” Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat, said. Colorado voters have rejected various anti-abortion ballot measures over the years.

“In response to those voters, and in response to the consistent and sustained support for reproductive health care by Coloradans in every corner of the state — urban, rural, and everywhere in between — the people, speaking unanimously through their democratic elected representatives in both chambers, have affirmed that we should trust Coloradans to make their own reproductive health care decisions,” Gonzales said.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

'Forensic examination' conducted by an ally of Mike Lindell doesn’t prove election tampering, experts say

A report supported by embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters that claims significant vulnerabilities exist in the county’s election system is another attempt to stretch a kernel of truth into a false cause for panic, security experts and election officials say.

The report, written by an ally of MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, Doug Gould, claims that the election system used for the 2020 election — which has since been decommissioned and replaced — had 36 wireless components that could “be exploited to obtain unauthorized access from external devices.”

The other primary finding was the inclusion of uncertified software in the system, which Gould wrote made the system vulnerable to attacks. In doing the forensic examination, Gould used before and after images, or copies, not the hardware itself, which Peters helped make without authorization during a “trusted build” software update in May 2021.

“From my initial review of the report, it appears that our county’s voting system was illegally certified and illegally configured in such a way that ‘vote totals can be easily changed.’ We have been assured for years that external intrusions are impossible because these systems are ‘air gapped,’ contain no modems, and cannot be accessed over the internet. It turns out that these assurances were false,” Peters wrote in a letter to county commissioners introducing the report.

Peters is facing a grand jury indictment on charges stemming from her having helped make those copies and allegedly allowing an unauthorized person to attend the trusted build, which resulted in the publishing of sensitive system passwords.

Gould’s report offered the theory that the machines could have been accessed by bad actors but did not provide evidence that they were, or that the results of any election administered through the system were incorrect.

This is the second report written by Gould. The first hinged on the claim that thousands of files were deleted from the election system.

“As with the first report, there’s nothing really new here,” said Matt Crane, the executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association and the former Republican clerk for Arapahoe County. “This is the same playbook that these people used in Antrim, Michigan, and in Arizona, and a lot of it has already been called out for the BS it is. What these grifters and bad actors are really good at is something called malinformation, when they take a shred of truth and they create a whole narrative that is a lie based on that truth.”

The “shred of truth” here, Crane said, comes from a program called Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio installed in the Mesa County server. The report alleges that the program is uncertified and therefore renders the entire system illegal to use in elections. It also alleges that the presence of the program, combined with other factors, could allow a bad actor to hack the server and flip votes.

Crane noted that the program is part of the SQL package installed on the computer, and was listed in the Dominion Voting Systems product documentation submitted to the state in 2019.

“Yes, it wasn’t outlined on the certification application. But everyone knows it is a part of that package. It was outlined in the Dominion documentation,” he said.

There is no evidence that votes were flipped in any election.

Known security flaws

Some cyber experts, however, say the vulnerabilities allegedly found by Gould make sense, but it is not a cause for alarm.

“I’m not at all surprised he would find vulnerabilities in a computer system like this. Most computers in this world have vulnerabilities,” Eric Wustrow, an assistant professor of computer engineering at University of Colorado Boulder, said. “And I’m also not shocked at his findings, because the system is set up to protect against these exact kinds of things.”

Those protections include features like physical security measures regarding election equipment, restricted access to equipment and post-election activities such as risk-limiting audits.

“It is important to look at systems rigorously and understand any threats and vulnerabilities to them,” Wustrow said. “But I don’t think anything in this report tells us that we have any reason to doubt past election results.”

Douglas W. Jones, a retired computer science professor at the University of Iowa with extensive experience researching voting systems said that even if Gould’s report showed evidence of flawed election system security, it does not prove any wrongdoing during the 2020 election.

Jones said he thinks the report reveals “real security flaws.”

“What this forensic evidence could show is that the barn door was left open, but it doesn’t show that anyone stole anything,” he said. “Relying on that to disprove the integrity of our elections is a mistake.”

Jones thinks it is important to create election systems with all wireless components disabled or excluded entirely, especially as it gets more and more difficult to buy any computer without wireless components baked in automatically. This extends beyond just Mesa County.

“It’s a concern nationally,” he said. “What this report finds is that this is not a problem for the future. It’s already there and already real.”

When Mesa County replaced its system in the wake of the Peters investigation, the county received machines without the wireless hardware, and Crane said election administrators have been working in general to use machines without wireless capabilities.

“This isn’t some new discovery that the (U.S Election Integrity Plan) came up with,” Crane said, referring to a Colorado-based far-right group founded by election-denial activists. “They didn’t discover the Fountain of Youth. We’ve known about this and have been working towards it.

Political implications

Officials warn that reports like this one sow further distrust in an audience of mostly conservative voters, many of whom have already been convinced that elections are insecure. Such distrust can suppress voter participation and turnout and is bad for democracy overall.

“These people claim to be Republicans and conservatives and want to see conservatives do well. That garbage that started here in Colorado about Dominion cost the Republican Party the Senate runoffs in Georgia, and thus the control of the U.S. Senate,” Crane said.

Colorado-based conservative activist Joe Oltmann began pushing the conspiracy theory that Dominion Voting Systems planned to rig the 2020 presidential election in early November 2020.

Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock then won their races in early 2021, as misinformation about the integrity of the November 2020 election surged.

The office of Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold also disputes the report.

“These misleading reports serve to further the spread of election disinformation,” a statement from the office reads. “Colorado leads the nation in election security and will continue to do so through legislation like the Colorado Election Security Act which protects against officials, who serve in public trust, jeopardizing the state’s election security to prove conspiracies.”

That legislation, introduced last week, seeks to increase safeguards against insider threats to the state’s election systems.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Tina Peters released on bond from Mesa County jail

Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters was released on bond Thursday evening after spending one night in jail following this week’s grand jury indictment, according to the county sheriff’s office.

District Court Judge Matthew Barrett set a $25,000 cash-only secured bond for Peters during a Thursday afternoon hearing and clarified that it had to be posted in her name. Peters is not allowed to contact most employees in the clerk and recorder’s office, including her deputy clerk Belinda Knisley, and must stay away from the office itself.

“I note that the allegations in this case are very serious, they are allegations that go to the very heart of her employment, and are alleged to have been acts that undermine the democratic process,” Barrett said.

Peters appeared at the virtual hearing from jail.

Barrett also ordered Peters to turn over her passport within 48 hours and barred her from leaving the state. At the start of investigations into the Mesa County election system security breach last summer, Peters left the state with the help of MyPillow CEO and leading election-denial figure Mike Lindell.

Knisley also posted bond, hers set at $10,000, a few hours before Peters.

Peters and Knisley were indicted by a grand jury on Wednesday for a combination of felony and misdemeanor charges stemming from an election security breach investigation. Peters faces 10 charges and Knisley faces six. The pair allegedly made copies of secure election system hardware, criminally impersonated an unauthorized person to give them access to a secure software update and facilitated a security breach that led to sensitive information being posted online.

Peters is running for secretary of state, though party officials have called on her to step down in light of the indictment.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

Colorado's MAGA clerk Tina Peters indicted by grand jury in election system security breach case

A Mesa County grand jury on Tuesday indicted Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters on 10 counts related to an investigation into election equipment tampering that led to a system security breach last summer.

The indictment is on a combination of misdemeanor and felony charges, including attempting to influence a public servant and criminal impersonation. The grand jury also indicted Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley on six counts.

Peters had been under investigation over allegedly enabling a security breach in the Mesa County elections system during a “trusted build” process, which involves a secure software update. She routinely spreads baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and that Colorado’s entire election system is insecure. She aligns herself with far-right figures including MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and Colorado podcaster Joe Oltmann.

The grand jury took up the investigation in January.

“The grand jury, randomly selected from the same pool of citizens that elected Clerk Tina Peters and chosen months before any of these alleged offenses occurred, concluded there is probable cause that Clerk Peters and Deputy Clerk Knisley committed crimes,” reads a joint statement from Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein and Attorney General Phil Weiser.

Both Peters and Knisley are innocent until proven guilty. Arrest warrants have been issued for the charges.

Peters is charged with the felony charges of three counts of attempting to influence a public servant, criminal impersonation, two counts of conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation and one count of identity theft, as well as the misdemeanors of first-degree official misconduct, violation of duty, and failing to comply with the secretary of state, according to the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office.

Knisley is charged with three counts of attempting to influence a public servant, one count of conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation, violation of duty, and failing to comply with the secretary of state.

“This investigation is ongoing, and other defendants may be charged as we learn more information,” Rubinstein and Weiser said.

Mystery about Gerald Wood

The indictment recounts that Peters allowed an unauthorized person — previously identified as Gerald Wood — into the room during an election system software update conducted by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. After that update, system passwords and other sensitive information was posted online.

The indictment, however, reveals that Wood testified he never attended the update and never used his access badge, which he turned over to Peters a few days before the update on the same day it was created. Access keys assigned to Wood, Peters and Sandra Brown were used to access the secure elections office.

The indictment does not reveal who Peters introduced to a state elections worker as Gerald Wood actually was.

Separately, Peters was cited with contempt of court for allegedly recording a court hearing for Knisley with an iPad and then lying to the judge about it. She is also facing charges of obstructing a peace officer and obstructing government operations when investigators tried to seize that iPad.

Peters is running for secretary of state to unseat Democratic incumbent Jena Griswold.

A Peters spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, Griswold said she is committed to upholding the state’s election infrastructure.

“Every eligible Coloradan — Republican, Democrat, and Unaffiliated alike — has the right to make their voice heard in safe, accessible, and secure elections. To do that, we need election administrators who are committed to following the law and election rules. Officials tasked with carrying out elections do so in public trust and must be held accountable when they abuse their power or position,” she said.


Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

NOW WATCH: Parents of a trans child who reached out to Ken Paxton over dinner are now under investigation for child abuse

Parents of a trans child who reached out to Ken Paxton are now under investigation for child abuse