DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s top election official, Democrat Jena Griswold, and a former county clerk hoping to replace her as secretary of state, Republican Pam Anderson, both agree that Colorado’s 2020 election was secure and that former President Donald Trump lost his re-election bid. But a debate Tuesday night showed how sharply divided they are over how outspoken the secretary of state should be in an era when many of Trump’s supporters, including people running to oversee elections in other states, lie about the outcome of that election.
Anderson, the former clerk of Jefferson County in suburban Denver, said she supported Griswold’s efforts to block Tina Peters, the Mesa County clerk charged with allegedly allowing outsiders to break into her election system, from overseeing elections there starting in 2021. However, Anderson, who defeated Peters in the primary election to become the GOP candidate, faulted Griswold for using the case in fundraising pitches to her supporters while it was still being investigated. Anderson, who said she wants to restore professionalism and a non-partisan approach to the office, said that tactic provided some doubt about whether the process was fair.
Griswold, who has vastly outraised Anderson, did not respond to that criticism in the debate at the University of Denver. Instead she said that the “big lie” was fueling threats to undermine elections and threats to election workers and that it was inappropriate for Anderson to campaign with fellow Republicans who dispute that Trump lost the election. She repeated her call for Anderson to disavow such candidates and not campaign with them.
Anderson said she has and would continue to push back against any candidate who spreads misinformation about elections but dismissed Griswold’s call as too political.
“I will not put fuel on the fire with hyperpartisan and polarizing and divisive rhetoric to fuel my political campaign,” said Anderson, who also said she wanted to change the “hearts and minds” of those who doubted the state’s election system through conversations.
Griswold, meanwhile, defended her vocal support for abortion rights and her belief that people’s right to vote could be endangered depending on the results of this year’s election.
“Standing up for fundamental rights is not partisan,” Griswold said.
Anderson said she supported abortion rights but said it was not a central focus of the secretary of state’s office.
In answer to a question from a student, Anderson refused to say whether she would vote for Trump if he is on the ballot again in 2024, explaining that she has never said if she supports a candidate who appears on a ballot for an election she has overseen. However, she said she would stand up to anyone who uses misinformation, conspiracies or lies against the democratic process.
Griswold, without specifically mentioning Trump, said she would never support someone who is using their office to destabilize this country for their political benefit.
“That is very clear. These are not normal times and we need elected officials willing to stand up for all voters, to stand up for democracy,” she said
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