Colorado GOP Senate candidate offered to 'help' elections official facing felony charges

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Republican State Rep. Ron Hanks said he'd 'do whatever needs to be done' to help Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who allegedly helped someone impersonate a county elections worker.

In previously unreported remarks, Colorado State Sen. Ron Hanks gave his unqualified support to Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who is currently facing seven felony charges and three misdemeanor charges for her role in a 2021 security breach related to the 2020 presidential election.

"For Tina Peters, I want to offer any help I can," Hanks said at an event last September. "There are representatives out there, in addition to me, that are interested in this. And we will do whatever needs to be done. Keep us in the loop and we will be here. I look forward to talking with Tina here briefly."

Hanks is the Republican front-runner in the race against incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) this November. He has falsely claimed the 2020 election was rigged against former President Donald Trump, and attended the Jan. 6, 2021, "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded the violent U.S. Capitol insurrection.

In March, a grand jury indicted Peters for her role in a 2021 security breach that led to confidential voter information being published to a QAnon-affiliated Telegram channel. Hanks voiced his support for Peters at a rally hosted last September at the Appleton Christian Church in Grand Junction, Colorado.

"When I say the reckoning is here, I mean you can see it on the horizon — I promise you that. I'm an intel guy," Hanks said. "There's a lot happening under the radar right now that isn't being spoken about, but good Americans in Mesa County and elsewhere are working to develop a case."

Last August, news broke that federal, state, and local authorities were launching a criminal investigation into Peters after Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, accused Peters of facilitating the 2021 security breach. The leak first came to public attention after documents and information from Mesa County's Dominion voting machines were published on a QAnon-affiliated Telegram channel.

On March 8, a grand jury indicted Peters on ten counts related to her involvement in the security breach, including felony identity theft and criminal impersonation charges. Belinda Knisley, Peters' deputy and alleged co-conspirator, faces six charges, including four felony charges. According to the indictment, the two clerks helped an unnamed person impersonate a Mesa County elections worker in order to enter a restricted area.

The person allegedly proceeded to download login information from the county's voting machines, make digital copies of the machines' hard drives, and sit in while the machines were manually updated. The indictment notes that the Colorado Secretary of State's office had previously informed Peters and Knisley that only county staff, authorized state staff, and Dominion employees could be present during the update.

Last Tuesday, a state judge ruled that Peters would be barred from overseeing this year's midterm elections. Peters is also running for Colorado secretary of state, and has accused Griswold of election fraud and has called for Griswold to be jailed.

The indictment further alleges that Peters and Knisley proceeded to pressure their subordinates to not cooperate with the authorities during the investigation.

During the investigation, Peters cast herself as the victim of a political conspiracy. "Using legal muscle to indict political opponents during an election isn't a new strategy, but it's easier to execute when you have a district attorney who despises President Trump and any constitutional conservative like myself who continues to demand all election evidence be made available to the public," Peters said in March.

Peters argues that she has done nothing wrong, saying that she brought in a "consultant" to help copy the hard drives in order to prevent the loss of data she needed to investigate the 2020 election.

This wasn't the first time Hanks, who kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign with an ad showing him shooting a copying machine labeled "Dominion voting machine," supported Peters. On Aug. 21, 2021, he spoke at a rally in support of her held in response to the investigation. "There is no evidence she did anything wrong," Hanks said at the rally, and claimed that "evidence is mounting daily" that the investigation was a "false-flag operation."

Hanks is facing just one primary opponent: Joe O'Dea, who owns a local construction company. Both O'Dea and Hanks are heavily self-funding their campaigns. The Colorado Republican Party endorsed Hanks in the race after Hanks gave his unequivocal support for Trump's election lies. O'Dea has said he does not agree with Trump's claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

If Hanks wins the Republican primary on June 28, he will face Bennet, the incumbent Democratic senator who ran for president in 2020. Bennet's campaign has so far out-fundraised both of his potential Republican opponents, taking in $2.5 million in the first three months of this year.

Still, Bennet, who won reelection in 2016 with 50% of the vote, could be vulnerable this November. The Cook Political Report downgraded the Colorado senate race from "solid Democrat" to "likely Democrat" in February.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.