Democrat Jena Griswold wins second term as Colorado’s top election official

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold gives a victory speech during an election night party held by the Colorado Democratic Party. Nov. 8, 2022.

Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold has won reelection to a second term in office, defeating Republican Pam Anderson, a former Jefferson county clerk and recorder, by a healthy margin with 55 percent of the vote. 

While the Associated Press had not called the race as of 10 p.m., Anderson took to the stage at the GOP watch party to concede.

While there was little polling in the race, Griswold’s win was not seen as a surprise, especially given her high profile and huge cash advantage. Her campaign raised nearly $4.26 million compared to Anderson’s less than $280,000.

Griswold’s campaign focused on her efforts to expand voting access and to fight back against election disinformation, including a new law that aims to protect the state from insider election security threats

“When fundamental rights are under attack, I will always stand up for them,” she said during one of the televised debates for the race. “When the right to vote is under attack, I will protect it for every Republican, Democrat and unaffiliated.”

But Griswold said she also doesn’t view her role as limited to solely speaking out on election-related issues and said she would not back away from weighing in on topics such as abortion access; during her first term, she banned official travel by her staff to Alabama after the state passed a restrictive abortion law.

“When the fundamental freedom to choose who to marry, when to have a kid, how to start a family is under attack, I will stand up for people's rights standing up for fundamental freedom. freedom is not partisan,” she said.

Unlike some of the other races for secretary of state across the nation, Anderson, the Republican candidate, and Griswold agree on major policy positions and back the state’s election model. They both support all mail ballots, dropboxes and automatic voter registration. 

Anderson spoke out strongly against false claims that the presidential election was stolen, and made it a centerpiece of her campaign to defeat Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters in the GOP primary. 

She tried to paint Griswold as too political for the role, and had pledged to be a non-partisan election administrator that could tone down the heightened rhetoric surrounding elections and help restore trust. 

“This was not the result we were hoping for,” Anderson said in a speech to attendees at the official state GOP watch party in Greenwood Village.

“We faced a well-funded opponent in the primary and the general.”  But Anderson said her message on the importance of non-partisanship for those running elections couldn’t be more important. 

“This is my life’s work and I will continue with that message. We can’t allow our elections administration to turn into a political football. It has been weaponized by both sides,” said Anderson.

She had accused Griswold of using hyper-partisan rhetoric to elevate her own profile.

But those messages weren’t enough to sway voters like Dana Bosquez of Lakewood. 

“I can’t see myself ever trusting another Republican candidate,” she said, especially when it comes to running elections.

Bosquez said she used to sometimes vote for Republicans, but that all changed after January 6th. 

“I think the Republican party is a traitor to our democracy. I can’t take a chance that we’re going to lose any more rights.” She said Anderson’s positions were irrelevant to her. “I’ve never been scared before. I’m 56 years old. I’ve never been scared in this nation. Now I’m frightened.”

She also credited Griswold for presenting her case for reelection clearly.

“I really liked Jena's presentation. And then, she's a Democrat.”

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold hugs a supporter during an election night party held by the Colorado Democratic Party. Nov. 8, 2022.

30-year-old unaffiliated voter Alex Lakocy was mostly planning to back Democrats this election and said he wouldn’t support any candidate who believes the 2020 presidential election was stolen. He thought Colorado had very strong candidates for secretary of state. 

“I think Jena Griswold's done a great job as secretary of state, and I think Pam Anderson would also do a great job. So I don't think that there's a bad choice in the selection.”

He did end up backing Anderson because he said doesn’t want the top election official to weigh in on hot button issues outside of the purview of the office.

“Advocating for positions publicly could provide excuses to people who might feel that the election was conducted unfairly or that, maybe the secretary of state has a conflict of interest here,” he said. 

In making her pitch for reelection, Griswold highlighted what she describes as the positive changes she’s made to the state’s election system — requiring counties to increase the number of ballot drop boxes, expanding automatic voter registration and navigating elections during a pandemic. 

She also repeatedly cast this election as a moment of crisis for the system, saying in numerous national cable news appearances that it will test the country’s faith in democracy, and that people need to mobilize to fight against the “Big Lie.”  

“We’re seeing the worst attack on democracy right now, and it’s imperative that we do everything we can to stop it,” said Griswold during an appearance on MSNBC in February. 

Her national profile pushing back against former President Donald Trump and his allies helped put Griswold on the radar of voters closer to home.

Earlier this year as she walked behind a campaign banner in a Labor Day parade in Louisville, numerous people in the crowd came up to Griswold to share their appreciation for her and  “sticking her neck out” and facing threats and intimidation as an elections official.