Former clerk Pam Anderson wins GOP Secretary of State primary over indicted clerk Tina Peters

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Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Republican Secretary of State candidate Pam Anderson.

Updated 10:39 p.m.

In one of the most-watched GOP races in Colorado’s primary election night, Tina Peters – Mesa County’s indicted clerk and recorder — lost her primary bid and will not face Democratic incumbent Jena Griswold this fall for the race to be Colorado’s next Secretary of State. 

Peters has long been a champion of false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. She was arrested earlier this year on ten counts of tampering with election equipment and official misconduct related to her alleged efforts to try to uncover fraud involving the voting machines in Mesa County. Peters continues to defend her actions and maintains she did nothing wrong. Reports based on the hard drives of those machines have been debunked.

On Tuesday Peters also denied the results of the primary vote. 

“We didn't lose. We just found out more fraud,” Peters told supporters at a watch party on the rooftop patio of the Wide Open Saloon in Sedalia looking out over the foothills south of Denver. 

Early returns show Pam Anderson, a former Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder and a past executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, will be the GOP nominee. Anderson won with 44 percent of the vote according to unofficial results. Peters and a third candidate split the remainder of the vote. 

Anderson told CPR News that Tuesday’s results show Colorado voters want balance and professionals to be elected to office. 

“We want free, accessible, and fair elections, and will push back on political hyper-partisan rhetoric around elections administration,” said Anderson.

The Colorado Democratic Party was quick to criticize Anderson, stating “the former Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder is a career politician who has proven that she cannot be trusted to stand up to the far-right members of the Republican party.”

Anderson was the first Republican to enter the Secretary of State race and said she did so out of concern that the public’s trust in elections is eroding, a shift she dates back to 2016 and the doubts Donald Trump sowed during his first bid for president.

“It’s easy for us to take the simpler, more polarizing black-and-white answer,” Anderson said. 

“And I think, in my experience, Colorado voters are more independent than that.” She noted that Colorado has consistently high voter participation. 

“They study the issues. They really look for someone that's going to stand up even when it's not politically expedient,” she said.

Political newcomer Mike O’Donnell, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Australia and now lives in Yuma County, came in second behind Anderson with 29 percent of the vote. Peters trailed at 27 percent. 

Lex Tehven is a Republican voter from Castle Rock who cast her ballot for Anderson. She said she couldn’t in good conscience back Peters.

“She's too controversial. We need somebody that's going to win and (Peters) doesn't have the background that Pam Anderson does. Pam Anderson is more skilled.”

Choosing the most competitive candidate was a concern for Republican Susan Adams as well. The Lone Tree resident said she made her decisions based on who she thought has the best chance against the Democrats who control Colorado’s government. 

“Electability is a huge issue and electability equals the ability to moderate and compromise,” she said.

Adams and Tehven attended a watch party for Heidi Ganahl for Governor that was in the same location as Peters’ event, but separated by a floor.

In their pursuit of electability, the women backed Ganahl and Joe O’Dea for U.S. Senate, as well as Anderson for Secretary of State. All three were the more moderate candidates in their respective races, and all three ended up winning on primary night.

“I think we need to emphasize pragmatism over ideology,” said Adams.

Tehven said having Republican nominees that can appeal to Colorado’s large swath of unaffiliated voters will help the party make gains up and down the ticket this fall. 

“We're going to make great strides in the midterms. We're going to take control, or at least take more of a percentage of the (state) legislature than we have in the past,” she predicted. “Just baby steps, one at a time.”