Oct 24, 2022 - News

2020 election denial looms large in Colorado's 2022 midterm

Republican Heidi Ganahl on Sept. 14, 2021. Photo: RJ Sangosti/Denver Post via Getty Images

Republican Heidi Ganahl on Sept. 14, 2021. Photo: RJ Sangosti/Denver Post via Getty Images

Election deniers will appear on the ballot in nearly every state this midterm — including at least five in Colorado who have rejected the 2020 election outcome or questioned the results.

Why it matters: The depth of the skepticism about the voting system, even as evidence shows elections are largely secure, demonstrates the threat level to democracy and raises the stakes of the 2022 election.

Zoom in: The issue is most evident in Colorado's governor race, where Republican candidate Heidi Ganahl has questioned the 2020 election and picked Danny Moore, an election denier, as her lieutenant governor.

Ganahl initially refused to comment on whether President Biden's election was legitimate and would not specify whether she thought the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol was an insurrection.

  • However, in an April meeting with supporters she said "there was some shady stuff going on," according to an audio recording reviewed by Axios Denver. Ganahl also said Republicans need to win Colorado by a large margin this year to overcome election fixing.
  • More recently, she's changed her tune. She told media outlets that, "I don't believe there was enough fraud that would have flipped the election." And added unequivocally at a forum in September that "Joe Biden is president; he's our commander in chief."

Of note: Moore, her running mate, also is shifting his public stance after openly questioning the fairness of the 2020 presidential election.

  • He posted on Facebook after the 2020 election that Biden was "elected by the Democrat steal" and not "by the people." Moore also falsely claimed that mail ballots are controlled by postal workers and "you lose any voice you thought you had" after sending it. The comments led to his removal as chair of the congressional redistricting commission.
  • The lieutenant governor hopeful reversed his stance in July, writing in an opinion column: "I believe, and have always believed, that Joe Biden was legitimately elected president." He blamed a biased media for the "gratuitous" question about the 2020 election as a means to "distract us."

What they're saying: Ganahl defended their ability to raise doubts about the election, saying at a recent election forum: "This is America, where you get to question things."

The other side: Democratic Gov. Jared Polis is citing Moore's initial stance as an attack line against Ganahl to question her decision making.

Of note: As a member of Congress, Polis was an early supporter of Trump's impeachment.

  • He voted to open debate about an impeachment resolution against Trump in 2017 — two years before the former president was impeached for abuse of power — saying his behavior was "putting our republic at risk" and he lacked the integrity to occupy the office.

The intrigue: Ganahl's connections to Trump allies that sought to overturn the election go deeper.

  • As a University of Colorado regent, she repeatedly praised the flagship university's Benson Center that brought John Eastman to campus. Easton crafted the legal theory for Trump that Vice President Mike Pence could overturn the election results, which contributed to the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol. Eastman later acknowledged it was a bogus theory and sought a pardon from Trump.
  • Ganahl never met Eastman, but tried to set up meetings with him before and after the November 2020 election, per reports. She later said she wished Eastman didn't involve CU in the conversation, but she also believed in academic freedom.

Moreover, Democrats note Ganahl campaign connections to Boris Epshteyn, who worked to challenge election results.

  • She also praised a prominent election conspiracy group, U.S. Election Integrity Plan, as "doing great things" and appeared on conservative media outlets, including Steve Bannon's radio show.

The big picture: Beyond the governor's race, at least four other Republican-nominated candidates for major races have disputed the 2020 election results and claimed election fraud.

Erik Aadland in the 7th Congressional District, called the presidential election "absolutely rigged."

  • At a different point, he told a radio show host: "Yes, I believe that fraud played a role in the outcome [of the] 2020 election, but I can’t prove it."

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert in the 3rd District is one of former President Trump's most prominent supporters when it comes to election fraud. "There is no way that anyone can call the 2020 presidential election fair," she wrote on Twitter.

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, the longtime incumbent in the 5th District, objected to the electoral college certification on Jan. 6, 2021, citing "serious irregularities and improprieties marring the 2020 general election."

Jennifer Qualteri, who is running in the 1st District, wrote on her campaign blog that the presidential contest was flawed because of "election fraud."

  • She defended the Jan. 6 rally, though said vandals went too far and she called the congressional committee’s effort to investigate the attack "a witch hunt."

Editor's note: This story was corrected by removing a reference to Brad Parscale as an election denier. Parscale has said he regretted helping Trump after seeing the Jan. 6 attack.


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