Impeachment effort launched by Colorado House Republicans against secretary of state

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Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold speaks at an Election Day press conference, Nov. 7, 2023, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in Aurora. (Lindsey Toomer/Colorado Newsline)

Republicans in the Colorado House of Representatives are seeking to impeach the Democratic secretary of state, who they say can’t be trusted to run fair elections.

Spearheaded by the top Republican in the Democrat-majority chamber, Minority Leader Rose Pugliese of Colorado Springs, and Rep. Ryan Armagost of Berthoud, the effort has the backing of 17 of the 19 House Republicans.

“Since being elected, the Secretary of State has used her position as a platform for her partisan political ideology and has proven herself unfit for this elected position,” the group of Republicans wrote in a letter Wednesday to Speaker Julie McCluskie, a Dillon Democrat, about Secretary Jena Griswold.

The letter indicates that Pugliese and Armagost submitted an impeachment resolution Feb. 8, and it requests that McCluskie bring the resolution to the House floor for consideration.

“The Colorado Republican Party continues to focus on conspiracies and political games,” Griswold said in an email. “I will not be intimidated by this baseless proceeding. While the Republican House Caucus wastes taxpayer dollars to score cheap political points, you can find me working for Colorado voters – Republican, Democratic, and Unaffiliated alike – to ensure they can make their voices heard in free and fair elections.” 

Armagost and Pugliese started working on the resolution in January after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that former President Donald Trump, due to his actions in relation to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, should be barred from the Colorado presidential primary ballot. The ruling was part of a lawsuit in which six Colorado voters sued Griswold in an effort to enforce Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits a person who “engaged in insurrection” after taking an oath to support the Constitution from holding office again.

The Colorado ruling was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.

This resolution is an unwarranted waste of time, and I'm disappointed to see House Republicans bow to the most extreme fringes of their party simply because the Secretary of State did her job.

– Colorado House Speaker Julie McCluskie

As a defendant in the case, Griswold took a neutral position in the proceedings. But she has been a vocal Trump critic, and she expressed approval when the state Supreme Court barred Trump.

“Donald Trump engaged in insurrection and was disqualified under the Constitution from the Colorado Ballot. The Colorado Supreme Court got it right,” Griswold said in a statement after the December ruling.

“Having the bias and doing what she’s doing to remove a candidate from the ballot, based on personal feelings and accusations, is dangerous,” Armagost said Thursday in an interview. “If she has personal feelings against me, she could do the same to me and say that I did this or that and ask that I get removed from the primary ballot … So this is simply just to say, you can’t do that with your position.”

Armagost said he doubts Griswold has ever run free and fair elections since she first took office after being elected in 2018.

“And I think there’s a fair amount of voters that don’t think so, based on my constituents that reach out to me,” Armagost said. “I think this was a perfect example of how she chooses to run elections, and it’s not free, fair, balanced or transparent at all.”

The impeachment resolution had yet to be introduced by the time of publication. Armagost said he expected the measure to be introduced Thursday.

“This resolution is an unwarranted waste of time, and I’m disappointed to see House Republicans bow to the most extreme fringes of their party simply because the Secretary of State did her job,” McCluskie said in a statement. “Donald Trump is the problem, not the secretary. But instead of dealing with MAGA extremists in their ranks, they’re defending Trump, and attacking his opponents.”

According to the Colorado Constitution, statewide officers can be impeached for “high crimes or misdemeanors or malfeasance in office.” The state House can impeach by majority vote, and the state Senate has the power to convict with a two-thirds majority.

Armagost acknowledged that since Democrats enjoy strong majorities in both chambers, the resolution has little chance of passing.

“Any debate that we really do here is wildly outnumbered. We get bulldozed,” he said. “The only thing we can do is make noise as the super minority.”

Griswold won reelection in 2022, when she defeated her Republican challenger by 12 points. She is chair of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State and is often said to have overseen a “gold standard” election system.

The letter from Colorado House Republicans follows a Monday letter from U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Windsor and the Colorado Republican Party that threatens a recall effort against Griswold.

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