On Tuesday night, Tina Peters, the election-denying conspiracist who is facing multiple felony charges for tampering with election systems, lost the Colorado Republican primary for secretary of state.
Not only did she lose, but she came last in a three-horse race.
And yet, within minutes of the election being called for her rival Pam Anderson, Peters did what she does best: She refused to accept reality.
Just as Peters has claimed to have done nothing wrong by allowing a former surfer-turned-election conspiracist to download sensitive data from voting machines in Mesa County where she is the elected clerk, she told her supporters on Tuesday night: “We didn’t lose, we just found evidence of more fraud … they’re cheating and we’ll prove it once again.”
“It’s not over,” she added ominously. “Keep the faith.”
And, as if on cue, Peters’ backers in the election conspiracy world began cranking out claims about suspicious activity on voting machines and claims that some unnamed “they” ensured Peters would lose.
Joe Oltmann, a businessman and podcaster who has built a sprawling political network in Colorado based on election denial conspiracies, was with Peters at a watch party at a rooftop bar Tuesday night as the results came in.
As soon as the results were announced, Oltmann claimed the election was rigged. “They stole elections in the primary in Colorado again…in the Tina Peters election. They stole another one and we keep catching them. Only this time, we had some interesting data to back it up,” Oltmann wrote in his Telegram channel, which has over 50,000 subscribers.
The data Oltmann was referring to was a chart posted originally by Jeff O’Donnell, a Florida businessman-turned-election “expert” who has become a minor celebrity in the world of election conspiracy grifters.
O’Donnell, known online as the “Lone Raccoon” because he loves raccoons, posted a series of charts that showed how votes for each of the three candidates had come in. He highlighted two sharp spikes in votes for Anderson on one chart, as if it showed some form of fraud. What he failed to highlight was identical spikes in the votes for the other two candidates (including Peters) at the exact same time.
But such facts matter little, and O’Donnell’s chart has been shared widely on election conspiracy channels on Telegram alongside claims of a rigged election.
Peters has been lionized within the election denier community since being plucked from obscurity in August last year when she was flown on Mike Lindell’s private jet to his bogus Cyber Symposium in South Dakota.
There, on stage, she presented “evidence” of what she claimed was voter fraud in her county. She was aided in that effort by QAnon influencer Ron Watkins, who had been given the data Peters helped to steal from the machines in Mesa County.
While in South Dakota, investigators from the secretary of state’s office arrived at Peters’ office to find out why data from the machines Peters was in charge of ended up online. Peters is now facing five misdemeanors and six felony counts stemming from her alleged scheme to impersonate a state worker and compromise voting machines. If convicted, she faces up to 28 years in jail and $2.7 million in fines.
Peters has pleaded not guilty, but at the same time she’s admitted to pretty much everything the prosecutors have alleged, claiming that she was simply protecting democracy rather than committing a crime.
Her brazen denial of the facts has attracted an army of supporters online and some high-profile financial backing from Lindell and former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, who between them have financed a huge proportion of the election conspiracy network that has blossomed across the U.S. in the last 18 months.
The refusal to accept reality has become a common thread running through these races since former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. Last week, a GOP-controlled county commission refused to certify a primary vote in New Mexico, and now Peters is refusing to accept an obvious defeat.
Despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into her campaign, Peters lost with gusto.
Except of course if you live in Trumpworld, where up is down, left is right, and losing an election cannot happen.
And with a slate of Trump-backed candidates set to contest elections across the country in November’s midterms, and the former president likely to return to the ballot in 2024, Peters’ denial of reality is something everyone will have to get used to hearing.