At Colorado Republican Party fundraiser in Weld County last month, 17 candidates posed together for a picture, standing in front of “Meet Our Candidates” signs listing all their names. U. S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea, the most prominent contender of the group, appeared on one end, smiling broadly, his right arm behind his fellow GOP candidate Stephanie Wheeler, who is running for a Denver statehouse seat.
Wheeler was the only paid employee of Joe Oltmann’s far-right conspiracist group, FEC United. She also works (and continues to volunteer with) its militia division, the United America Defense Force (UADF).
In an interview with the Colorado Times Recorder last month, Wheeler declined to answer whether she believed the 2020 presidential election was stolen, saying instead that the country needs more truth and transparency while noting that there are many people who doubt the election’s legitimacy.
Wheeler co-hosts a podcast, called The Modern Patriot, with UADF leader John ‘Tig’ Tiegen. There haven’t been any new episodes for several months, though Wheeler says they’ve just been busy with other projects and it isn’t over. When they were broadcasting regularly, the podcast aired on an alternative conservative streaming site called DLive, which gained popularity with rioters broadcasting their storming of the U.S. Capitol last year. The New York Times describes the site as “a haven for white nationalists.”
During an episode from January, Wheeler discussed social media giant Meta’s decision to remove FEC United (including UADF) from its Facebook and Instagram platforms, citing violations of the sites’ terms of services, according to Wheeler. While she complained that the company wouldn’t explain its decision, a commenter posted racist and antisemitic comments in the podcast chat.
Just a few feet away from Wheeler stood Heidi Ganahl’s running mate, GOP Lt. Governor candidate Danny Moore, whose election denier posts on social media forced him to step down from chairing Colorado’s congressional redistricting committee.
Also posing under the same big tent with Wheeler and Moore were state Sen. Barb Kirkmeyer (R-Brighton), who is running to represent Colorado’s new Eighth Congressional District and who accepts the 2020 election results, and Secretary of State candidate Pam Anderson, who has made her rejection of the Big Lie a centerpiece of her campaign.
Yesterday Anderson held a campaign event touting her support from current and former elections officials, both Republicans and Democrats. She gave a speech with them standing beside her in a bipartisan display of their shared vision of election administration. The visual was an important part of the message, which is why the photo from the state party event in Windsor is also significant. One other difference between the two fundraisers? The Windsor event was closed to the press, but reporters (and photographers) were welcome to attend Anderson’s event in downtown Denver.
Another recent event highlighted the challenges the state GOP has campaigning together on a unified message. Republicans kicked off the campaign season with a press event at their new favorite venue, Joe O’Dea’s Mile High Station. As reported by multiple outlets, including Colorado Newsline, the candidates gave stump speeches and promoted their “Commitment to Colorado” policy agenda. No one wanted to talk about the 2020 election results. A photo from a Newsline photographer, however, shows a number of top candidates and party officials who are very much linked to election denial.
CORRECTION: A previous version of the above image incorrectly identified HD33 candidate Stacie Dougherty (far left in red) as HD49 candidate Katie Lehr, who attended the Jan. 6 insurrection. CTR has removed the label and deeply regrets the error.
The party’s election deniers aren’t limited to just a couple of statehouse candidates running in deep-blue seats, like Wheeler or her colleague Katie Lehr in Boulder, who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
From Ganahl refusing to say the 2020 election wasn’t fraudulent to Congressional hopeful Erik Aadland saying flat-out it was “absolutely rigged,” to party Chair Kristi Burton Brown having served as president of FEC United, the Colorado Republican party is rife with election deniers, and every group photo its candidates take only serves as a reminder.