Jan 19, 2022 - News

Why Democrats think the 2020 election debate is a political win

Voting booth on a blue background surrounded by safety cones.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Taking a page from President Biden and the national Democratic Party, Colorado legislative leaders are making the legitimacy of the 2020 election a key issue ahead of the midterms.

Driving the news: In a political power move, the Democratic-majority in the state House and Senate instigated a fight Tuesday on non-binding resolutions to "reassert the validity of the 2020 presidential election results."

The moderate House Republican leader Hugh McKean ​blasted the effort as a distraction from lawmaking — but his more conservative GOP colleagues took the bait.

  • At least 15 of the 24 lawmakers supported Republican amendments to thank the protesters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, urge the decertification of the election and stand with Donald Trump.
  • Only one Republican in either chamber — state Sen. Kevin Priola — supported the Democratic resolutions.

Why it matters: The willingness to renew focus on the 2020 election issue at the start of the legislative session demonstrates a turnabout.

  • Democrats initially dismissed GOP election fraud complaints outright, but now the party is highlighting them as a way to make their rivals look out of touch or extreme.

"The fact we've let [this] trickle down into Colorado, where this is a fight or debate, is obviously very problematic," said Amanda Gonzalez, the former state director for Common Cause, who announced a campaign for Jefferson County clerk today.

What they're saying: Democrats acknowledged part of the intended effect was political messaging.

  • "I think most Coloradans would be surprised to find that the Republican Party in Colorado espouses these beliefs," said Democratic state Rep. Kerry Tipper, a lead sponsor of the resolution, in an interview with Axios Denver.
  • House Speaker Alec Garnett (D-Denver) went further to issue a warning during the debate: "Colorado, America, listen up! This is serious. You are under threat. Your ability to vote is under threat."

The other side: The resolution succeeded in showing the split in the Colorado Republican Party on the topic.

  • Rep. Ron Hanks, a GOP lawmaker who advanced past police officers outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, used the moment to reiterate his call for additional ballot audits and said the protesters "did nothing wrong."
  • Colorado Republican Party chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown later issued a statement contradicting the legislative members. She declared "the 2020 election is over," Biden is the president and the party has confidence in the election system.

ICYMI … New Colorado ties to Jan. 6 attacks and 2020 election emerge and Colorado official warns 2020 election challenge "could happen again"

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard. Subscribe here.

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