GOP Official Accused of Leaking Info to QAnon Is Now Running for Office

Tina Peters, the top election official in Mesa County, Colorado, has a lot on her plate. 
Grand Junction Police Department
Grand Junction Police Department
Logo_Disinfo Dispatch Padding
Unraveling viral disinformation and explaining where it came from, the harm it's causing, and what we should do about it.

Tina Peters, the top election official in Mesa County, Colorado, has a lot on her plate. 

She’s subject to ongoing federal and state criminal investigations—​​including from a local grand jury—over her alleged tampering with election machines last year, as well as allegations of wire fraud and campaign finance violations. 

And just last week she was arrested on charges of obstructing a government operation after being captured on camera attempting to kick a police officer who was trying to get hold of an iPad Peters had allegedly used to illegally record a court proceeding.


Despite all that, the pro-Trump, election conspiracy-spreading official has decided that now is the perfect time to run for secretary of state in Colorado.

“Colorado deserves a secretary of state who will stand up to the Biden administration that wants to run our country into the ground with nationalized elections,” Peters said in a statement posted on Twitter

Peters, who has appeared on QAnon podcasts, joins an increasingly eclectic list of far-right, pro-Trump election fraud conspiracy boosters who are running for their state’s top election position in November. They’re part of a widespread effort by former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party to put allies in key election positions ahead of the 2024 presidential race.

Peters became a superstar in MAGA world last year when she allegedly helped facilitate the leak of data from voting machines in Mesa County. That data somehow ended up in the hands of QAnon influencer-turned-congressional candidate Ron Watkins.

Peters has defended her actions, saying that she was simply preserving a backup of the voting machine records because she believed a routine update was going to wipe evidence of election tampering from the machines, even though no evidence of such tampering has been produced by her or anyone else. 

But last month Colorado’s district attorney and attorney general announced a grand jury investigation into the alleged data breach. Peters was barred from overseeing  the 2021 elections in Mesa County, and current Secretary of State Jena Griswold has brought a lawsuit against her to prevent her overseeing the 2022 elections.


Peters went on Steve Bannon’s show, “War Room: Pandemic,” on Monday night to announce her candidacy, claiming she was working to fight the “radical left” and election overreach from the Biden administration.

Bannon called Peters an “American hero” and said she was one of the “most targeted people in the world as you fight the globalist apparatus.”

Peters also took the opportunity to complain about the treatment she received at the hands of the police last Tuesday in Grand Junction, Colorado, when she allegedly prevented police officers from getting hold of her iPad. 

“I​​t’s been almost a week I still have the bruises on my arm where they manhandled me and my back,” Peters told Bannon.

According to a search warrant filed by District Attorney Investigator Michael Struwe, Peters was seen by a court clerk and a prosecutor recording proceedings with her tablet during a court hearing on Monday. The hearing was for her deputy, Belinda Knisley, who is facing unrelated charges of felony burglary and misdemeanor cybercrime.

During the court hearing Judge Matthew Barrett specifically asked Peters if she was using the iPad to record proceedings, which would be a violation of standing court rules not to record video or take pictures. Peters told the judge she wasn’t, according to Struwe’s affidavit.


If Peters was recording the court hearing, she could also face contempt-of-court charges for allegedly lying to the judge.

Bodycam footage of her arrest the following day, at Main Street Bagels in downtown Grand Junction, Colorado, shows Peters berating the officers and going limp to make it harder for them to move her. She also appears to kick at one of the officers.

At one point an officer asked Peters to “stand up like an adult.”

Peters responds by telling the officer: “Shut up. What an asshole thing to say to me.”

Peters was eventually released but subsequently a warrant for her arrest was issued on misdemeanor charges of obstructing a peace officer and obstructing government operations. On Thursday, she turned herself into the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office where she was released on a $500 bond.

Hours later, Peters appeared at an event organized by FEC United, a conservative group that has its own militia wing, called the United America Defense Force. The event, which took place in a church in Castle Rock, Colorado, was called an “emergency town hall” and saw a range of speakers address the crowd, including conspiracy theorist and FEC United founder Joe Oltmann, GOP Senate candidate and State Rep. Ron Hanks, and election conspiracy booster Shawn Smith.

During his speech, Smith blasted Secretary of State Griswold, claiming—without evidence—that he had evidence of criminal election conduct by her. The crowd began chanting “Lock her up” but Smith went further, telling the audience: "You know, if you're involved in election fraud, then you deserve to hang.”


The comment was met with applause.

Griswold, who reported the threat to police, has become a target for Trump supporters as a result of unending conspiracies and baseless allegations leveled against her by Peters and many others in MAGA world.

“Usually nothing happens, and it’s very concerning because we're seeing these attacks against secretaries of state, predominantly women,” Griswold told 9News last week.

Griswold recently requested $120,000 to hire a private security detail to protect her, and she has advocated changing the law to grant the secretary of state the same Colorado State Patrol protection offered to the governor and lieutenant governor.

“We have not been given state patrol coverage that the state of Colorado should provide, and so we have to go to a third party to make sure that I can continue to do my job in a safe atmosphere,” Griswold said.

Responding to Peters’ decision to run against her, Griswold tweeted on Monday that Peters “compromised voting equipment, lies about elections, and has embraced dangerous extremism. [She] is unfit to be Secretary of State and a danger to Colorado elections.”

Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.