Good news for the conspiracist wing of the Colorado Republican party: both candidates currently vying to replace Congressman Ken Buck as state GOP chair believe Denver-based Dominion Voting may have been responsible for election fraud, both in Colorado and across the nation.
Former Secretary of State Scott Gessler and current Colorado Republican Party Vice Chair Kristi Burton Brown spoke at a meeting of the Arapahoe County Tea Party Jan. 12.
Gessler said he believes the presidential election was stolen, while Burton agreed that the party needs to “go on attack” against Dominion Voting. The pair shared similar views not only on election fraud but on their party’s internal rifts and its messaging and communications failures.
It’s their support of the conspiracy theories seen as largely responsible for the violent insurrection attempt the U. S. Capitol, though, that should please the far-right members of their party, whose votes the two candidates are trying to court.
Many Republicans are furious at Buck for supporting several of his party’s county clerks in asserting that the 2020 election ran fairly and without fraud.
“I think it’s so important for us to understand that our votes are not being manipulated,” Buck concluded on a Dec. 2 GOP panel that featured clerks from Montrose, El Paso and Weld counties.
Aspiring chairs Brown and Gessler beg to differ. They expressed these and other opinions to members of the Arapahoe Tea Party, one of the oldest Tea Party groups in the state, convened by radio host Randy Corporon, who also serves as the Republican National Committeeman from Colorado. In a wide-ranging discussion that took place in a small Aurora office building conference room, none of the visible participants wore masks.
Brown Wants GOP to “Attack” Dominion Voting
Brown first addressed the Dominion conspiracy by agreeing with an audience member who added the company to a list of Democratic targets.
“We have to go on the attack against Polis,” Brown began. “Against Griswold, against Weiser, against Bennet and against Dave Young. We should lay the groundwork–“
“And Dominion!” someone interjected.
Absolutely, yes,” Brown concurred.
The Vice Chair of the Colorado Republicans later used Dominion to set herself apart from the man she hopes to replace, Chairman Ken Buck.
“He and I did differ on the state party’s stand on how to handle election integrity. And Ken knows this. I believe the state party should have joined our county parties in Jefferson and Boulder who called for forensic audits of the Dominion voting machines. That would not have hurt us to ask for that. We should have asked for that. We should have stood by our counties.
Those two county chairmen are very skilled, know what they’re talking about when it comes to election integrity. They have a lot of people on the ground. They’ve done it for years. They know what they’re talking about. And they were right to request a forensic audit.”
In a story first reported by the Colorado Times Recorder, JeffCo GOP chair Denise Mund announced her party wouldn’t “certify” the county results without an audit of the Dominion software code used to administer the election–even though parties don’t certify results, election boards do. Mund’s arguments were based on the already-debunked conspiracy theory that Dominion Voting Systems switched votes from Trump to Biden. The Boulder GOP chair’s objections were less specific and more of a tradition. Republicans in Boulder have refused to certify election results no fewer than eight times in the past ten years.
Brown wouldn’t specify what if any fraud she believes to have occurred, noting that she didn’t want to speak with a camera in the room.
“However, there’s a lot I actually can’t say, especially because this is being recorded, haha,” Brown told the Republicans at the gathering. “But there are absolutely plans in the works to ensure that the state party focuses on election integrity and works with the chairs who know what they’re talking about, spreads their knowledge and ability to focus on election integrity and find any fraud that exists around the state. These chairmen who are very skilled at that, want to spread their program around the state to help other counties know how to catch fraud when it happens because if we caught it sooner, in many instances, we’d be able to challenge it. That’s a huge issue… And then there’s a lot of behind the scenes work we can do to figure out what really went on and pursue the idea of forensic audits. Again, I think that work needs to be behind the scenes and I’d be happy to talk about in personal conversation.”
Gessler: Election “Probably Stolen”
Scott Gessler who served as Colorado’s Secretary of State from 2011 to 2015, was even more blunt in his assessment that Democrats were likely responsible for stealing the White House from President Trump.
“And I do think that this election, if we have a full investigation, was probably stolen from from our president,” Gessler said at the meeting. “I will just come right out and say that. And I’ve seen some of those skunk works, OK? I’ve seen some of the crap that those Democrats have pulled and we have to be prepared for that, Colorado, because we have a left wing progressive Democrat who runs around talking about how Colorado’s the gold standard- which I built, by the way. But she is ruining it. And we can easily become Nevada or Pennsylvania or Wisconsin, where elections are regularly stolen and were stolen this cycle.”
Colorado’s former top election official was more circumspect on the issue of fraud in his own state, but Gessler still raised the possibility that “massive election fraud or maybe some election fraud” occurred in Colorado. And despite testifying before the legislature last December that Dominion performed well, Gessler also told the Arapahoe Tea Party that he is encouraging Colorado county clerks and party officials to audit Dominion-run voting results.
“It’s sort of frustrating. I was Secretary of State and I left and now things are falling to shit,” Gessler snarked. “Look, here’s how we audit Dominion. Under the Colorado Open Records Act, we’re able to get ballots where we look at ballot images up to 25 months after the election…Once we have those images, we count them… I’ve encouraged some of the clerks to do –or some of our county party chairs, and I know they’ve spoken to the clerks– is to be able to get a company called Clear Ballot… . They can take ballots from other companies and run them through the equipment, their equipment to see how the tabulation occurred, because tabulation, that’s the most verifiable part of an election…
“And so that’s what we need to do where possible that will enable us to do one of two things. We’ll either say, OK, well, Dominion did it straight or there truly was massive election fraud or maybe some election fraud with respect to the tabulation process. And I think we need to do that in order to restore confidence…. We do risk-limiting audits. They are actually the most sophisticated in the country and they’ve shown that Dominion is OK. But I still think that a full audit would be appropriate.”
Gessler concluded by calling the Democratic county clerks in Jefferson and Arapahoe counties “nutjobs.”
While Gessler was still Secretary of State, his office initiated the vetting process that resulted in Colorado counties hiring Dominion Voting to run nearly all the elections in the state.
Neither Gessler nor Brown immediately replied to messages requesting comment. This article will be updated with any response received.
Watch the full answers from both candidates on Dominion Voting here:
Neither leader was shy about heaping criticism on their own party.
“I’ve watched things [in the Colorado GOP] decline over the last several years even more,” said Gessler. “It’s been very difficult to watch and I am determined to turn that around. So that’s who you’re getting like straight up-front. You’re getting someone who is going to, like, not throw sand in the gears, but like a rip out the gears and replace every damn one of them if I have to.”
Brown said flat-out that “there’s no question we don’t have a good field of candidates.” She emphasized a need for recruitment and training, saying it was important to work with “effective third party groups,” specifically mentioning Gessler’s group, the Colorado Alliance, a 527 political organization he established in 2016 and which he describes as “an army to defend our state.” The group spent just over $46,000 in the 2018-20 election cycle. Brown contrasted it with the Colorado GOP’s own candidate development program, called the Trailblazer program, which she dismissed.
“In my opinion it’s an ineffective program,” said Brown. “It would majorly change under me as chairman. We have not run the kind of program we should for candidates, and we have to improve that, while working with successful third party groups to let them do what they do best and build a network around our candidates.”
Brown did not mention FEC United, another “third party group” she is working closely with (She’s helping the group build its “Law & Policy Center.”) and presumably envisions as part of the network around Republican candidates. She also mentioned a progressive “third party group” in the context of wanting to infiltrate it: Emerge Colorado, which helps progressive women run for office.
“We need to listen to what they’re doing,” said Brown. “Get good intel, have people who can get into the Emerge program and figure out everything they tell those people– that be great.”
Gessler also offered an “intelligence” warning to Republicans: People are always watching, so watch what you say. He referenced 2018 statehouse candidate Grady Nouis, whose campaign was derailed in part due to his promotion of hate group rallies, first reported by the Colorado Times Recorder. He also mentioned Parker Mayor Jeff Toborg, who recently went on 9News to apologize for posting QAnon conspiracies on Facebook and joining a group that encouraged doxxing public health workers.
“Our candidates need to emotionally understand that their Facebook feeds have been infiltrated,” said Gessler. “That stuff will be used against them all the time. Look at Grady Nouis, what he had to face. OK, Jeff Toborg down in Parker just got hammered for some of his comments. We have to do better at message discipline. And the way we’re better at message discipline is learning the threat and understanding that, OK?
You need to know that these people are looking after you all the time at you. And then on message training, people need to practice responses. Look, I mean, we can be conservative and we can be edgy, but you got to practice responses.”
Advising candidates to stay on message and stick to their talking points is a universal truth in politics. It remains to be seen if message discipline alone can protect candidates who are advocating debunked conspiracy theories.