Earlier this month, the Colorado Chamber of Commerce announced its endorsements of state legislative candidates for the 2022 election, saying the candidates selected by the chamber, “all demonstrated a dedication to working with the business community to support forward-thinking policies that will promote job creation and opportunity for all Coloradans.”
But at least ten of the chamber’s 43 chosen candidates — about a quarter of the selections — are on record as promoting baseless conspiracies that Trump won the 2020 presidential election. The chamber endorsed 35 Republicans and 8 Democrats.
Mark Baisley (R-Roxborough Park)
Kenneth DeGraaf, running for a Colorado Springs House seat
DeGraaf promotes election conspiracies on his campaign website, writing that he finds Tina Peters’ “arrest for revealing Dominion vulnerabilities disturbing.” He also links to one of the debunked “reports” on Mesa County election results written by election fraud conspiracy group U.S. Election Integrity Plan. In January, DeGraaf joined a number of fellow El Paso County election deniers on a Zoom call featuring MyPillow CEO and prominent election conspiracist Mike Lindell.
Stephanie Luck (R-Penrose)
In April of 2021, Luck was still asking John Eastman, Trump’s insurrectionist lawyer, if there were legal avenues to overturn the 2020 presidential election. And her policy director, Carolyn Martin, represented Luck, who’s introduced bills relating to election conspiracies, at a panel of the U.S. Election Integrity Project (USEIP). Luck’s local GOP, the Fremont County Republicans, published a party platform rife with debunked conspiracies concerning Dominion Voting machines and electronic voting.
Ty Winter, running for southeastern Colorado House seat
Ty Winter made multiple election fraud conspiracy statements on social media following the 2020 election. He posted a Nov. 7 Tweet from then-President Trump stating, “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!” On Nov. 19 he shared an image of the word “Fraud” combined with stylized vote total lines, captioning it with “Joe Biden is the system’s pick for President. Donald Trump is the PEOPLE’S pick for President. THE PEOPLE WILL WIN!!!”
On Dec 20, 2020 Winter shared a post by religious right leader Franklin Graham quoting Stalin and claiming that the election may have been rigged. Winter also served as Chair of the Las Animas County GOP when it posted debunked election fraud conspiracies to its Facebook page.
Kevin Van Winkle (R-Highlands Park)
In December 2020, Van Winkle promoted a “Standing for Trump” petition, which stated that the “establishment media and deep state refuse to acknowledge the growing evidence of election fraud uncovered by the Trump Campaign and other independent investigators.”
State Representatives Baisley, Rod Bockenfeld (R-Watkins), Marc Caitlin (R-Montrose), Luck, Janice Rich (R-Grand Junction), Matt Soper, Van Winkle, and Dan Woog (R-Erie).
These eight lawmakers voted in January to “call into question” whether the 2020 presidential election was legitimate and to urge the decertification of the 2020 election results. They also thanked state Rep. Ron Hanks (R-) for being at the Jan. 6 demonstration at the U.S. Capitol, as well as those who joined him there. Baisley, Rich, Soper, and Woog walked back their votes, indicating regret in different degrees, but they didn’t completely clarify that they rejected their votes on the multiple positions reflected in the measure.
The candidates were selected by chamber of commerce officials after “interviews and vetting by the Colorado Chamber’s Political Action Committee (PAC) Board,” according to a chamber news release.
The chamber’s vetting process “includes detailed analyses of candidates’ campaigns, fundraising, legislative districts, and voter performance and history,” according to the release.
Asked if threats to democracy are a concern of the Colorado Chamber of Commerce or seen as a danger to business — and if a candidate’s record on election conspiracy issues was considered when the chamber made its endorsements — the chamber’s spokeswoman, Cynthia Meyer, said via email that candidates are evaluated “narrowly on economic and workforce issues.”
“There are many critically important issues for voters to consider in November,” wrote Meyer. “As a business organization, our candidate evaluations focus narrowly on economic and workforce issues. Our PAC Board chose to endorse the strongest candidates in their races on these issues.”
The chamber likes candidates who “support forward-thinking policies that will promote job creation and opportunity for all Coloradans,” said Colorado Chamber President Loren Furman said in a news release.
“As the Colorado Chamber works to promote a future-focused vision of fostering a prosperous and inclusive economic climate, we need legislators who are committed to supporting the state’s business community at the capitol,” said Furman. “We evaluate candidates based on their understanding of the issues, their willingness to build consensus and reach across party lines, and their ability to get results for the businesses in their districts. The candidates we’ve chosen to endorse have all demonstrated a dedication to working with the business community to support forward-thinking policies that will promote job creation and opportunity for all Coloradans.”
The mission of the Colorado Chamber, as stated on its website, “is to champion a healthy business climate.”
“The four key objectives,” the site states, “of that mission include: Maintaining and improving the cost of doing business; Advocating for a pro-business state government; Increasing the quantity of educated, skilled workers; and Strengthening Colorado’s critical infrastructure (roads, water, telecommunications, and energy).”