Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold a frequent goal of criticism in a combative election 12 months


In two quick however tumultuous years, Jena Griswold has reworked Colorado’s usually low-key secretary of state place into one thing of a nationwide spectacle.
And Griswold, 36, is simply fantastic with that.
The youngest American secretary of state and first girl to carry the place in Colorado faces fixed accusations that she is politicizing her place and covets increased workplace. However she and her supporters shrug off the criticism as typical for a younger girl ready of energy, particularly one standing as much as President Donald Trump and different Republicans who would name Colorado’s best-of-class election system into query.
“There isn’t a robust or an extended historical past of girls in these positions, and clearly I’m going to have some views which might be totally different than the final 144 years of management in statewide workplace,” Griswold mentioned. “And the character of what we’re coping with is totally different. We’ve a president and a federal administration who’ve immediately attacked Colorado’s elections.”
On the identical time, nonetheless, extra muted critiques churn amongst members of her personal social gathering and among the many state’s county clerks. Some pointed feedback by the Broomfield clerk earlier this 12 months resulted in Griswold’s brother reaching out to the clerk’s bosses.
Griswold mentioned she is protecting her concentrate on holding Colorado’s place because the most secure state through which to forged a vote.
A short historical past
Born and raised for a decade in Toledo, Ohio, Griswold spent the final half of her childhood in Estes Park. She graduated from highschool there earlier than heading to school at Whitman Faculty in Washington State, and later the College of Pennsylvania Legislation Faculty, from which she earned her juris doctorate.
The secretary typically displays on her childhood in Colorado, when her household lived off meals stamps with an outhouse exterior their dwelling. Griswold notes that she is the primary in her household to graduate from a four-year college in explaining her motivation for wading into public service. She is fluent in Spanish and studied salsa dance the world over.
Griswold labored for President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection marketing campaign in Washington, D.C., and later served as a liaison to the federal authorities for then-Gov. John Hickenlooper.
She examined her expertise as a voter rights lawyer on the polls as a first-time candidate within the 2018 midterms, operating for secretary of state towards Republican incumbent Wayne Williams. Pushback towards Trump’s presidency that 12 months helped produce a Democratic sweep of state management positions, together with the Secretary of State’s Workplace.
From the beginning, Griswold sought to model her tenure along with her personal fashion, to the dismay of members of the outdated guard like Williams’ predecessor, Republican Scott Gessler.
A secretary of state should both come into workplace with subject-matter experience or construct it rapidly, Gessler mentioned.
“She doesn’t know her (expletive),” Gessler mentioned. “This isn’t a U.S. Senate workplace the place individuals are known as on simply to opine, that is an administrative company the place it’s important to do issues and make it run effectively.”
Final week, Griswold drew fast criticism from Gov. Jared Polis, different Democrats, Republicans and journalists when she requested nationwide media to chorus from calling races and even asserting election outcomes on election night time.
She later deleted the Tweet thread the place she made the request and apologized for it, however says she nonetheless stands behind her supposed message that different states are adopting new voting protocols that ought to be considered by reporters.
Gessler informed The Put up that Griswold has bloated her workplace’s staffing and price range. Nonetheless, fellow Republican Bob Rankin, a state senator on of the Joint Finances Committee, mentioned he hasn’t seen a considerable enhance other than an $eight million bump to deal with the presidential major.
However the workplace additionally collects charges, Gessler mentioned, and certainly that money elevated beneath Griswold by greater than 25% from 2018 to 2019 and remained there for 2020, in response to a state price range report. The workplace employs 147 folks — 7% greater than it did in 2017.
Extra money and employees are wanted to develop and replace the workplace, Griswold mentioned, and he or she flatly rejects the notion that she has no subject-matter experience.
“Once you’re a youthful girl, folks underestimate you,” Griswold mentioned. “You’ve acquired to disregard the noise and concentrate on what’s vital to being profitable. No prior secretary of state in Colorado has needed to navigate these challenges, particularly on high of a pandemic.”
Among the many successes she cites are marketing campaign finance and lobbyist transparency reforms, new applications to assist voters monitor their ballots and repair signature discrepancies electronically, and an elevated variety of 24-hour poll drop packing containers.
Accusations of partisanship
Nonetheless, others say the secretary is just too partisan. Amber McReynolds, Denver’s former director of elections and present CEO of the Nationwide Vote at Residence Institute, mentioned Griswold will get very near that line.
“I do know all of the secretaries of state. Those that do the most effective are those that actually deal with the job in a nonpartisan method,” McReynolds mentioned.
Through the presidential major, Griswold made a behavior of showing with outstanding Democratic candidates after they visited Denver — most memorably, studying a query from a 9-year-old boy to Pete Buttigieg about the best way to be courageous about popping out that grabbed media nationwide consideration.
Republican state Senate candidate Suzanne Staiert complained that Griswold’s workplace filed a marketing campaign finance grievance towards her, although the statute of limitations had clearly handed — offering ammunition for Staiert’s Democratic opponent.
Griswold has appeared on nationwide TV exhibits to appropriate misinformation unfold by Trump and shot again on the president and U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, the state Republican Celebration chair, on Twitter.
Such a robust social media presence may backfire, McReynolds mentioned: “If there’s a shut election, and also you’re spending your day tweeting about one aspect or the opposite, that stuff is gonna find yourself in courtroom when there’s an election problem.”
However Griswold defends her excessive profile on-line as an important a part of her job — a view that’s echoed by Michal Rosenoer, govt director of Emerge Colorado, which recruits and trains Democratic ladies candidates.
“We’ve a president whose major mode of speaking to the general public is Twitter, so it is smart that our public officers primarily play the sport they’ve been given,” Roseneor mentioned.
Griswold has been energetic, she mentioned, however she is performing her duties faithfully and objectively.
“She’s combating the battle that numerous ladies in workplace must battle,” Rosenoer mentioned. “And that’s balancing being authoritative and doing all of your job with the societal distaste for ladies in energy.”
Griswold’s increased profile may effectively be the brand new development for secretaries of state throughout the nation as partisan politics spill over into on a regular basis points, mentioned Matthew Hitt, a political science professor at Colorado State College.
“The outdated saying is all politics are native,” Hitt mentioned. “Now, all politics are nationwide.”
Conflicts with county clerks
A lot of the work of the Secretary of State’s Workplace entails coordinating efforts with the 64 county clerks throughout Colorado — and that relationship has typically been rocky since Griswold took workplace.
Unaffiliated Broomfield Metropolis and County Clerk Jennifer Robinson famous considerations throughout a Could convention name between the Colorado County Clerks Affiliation and Griswold’s workplace.
“What I mentioned on document was ‘the clerks felt disrespected, that there wasn’t a collaboration between us and the secretary of state,’” Robinson mentioned throughout a September disciplinary listening to, an audio recording of which was obtained by The Denver Put up. She declined to remark for this story
After the Could name, the affiliation despatched Griswold a seven-page doc — additionally obtained by The Denver Put up — that mentioned among the guidelines the secretary created due to the coronavirus pandemic have been overbearing and others conflicted with state regulation.
Round that point, Broomfield Mayor Pat Quinn mentioned he obtained a name from Griswold’s brother, Chris Griswold, a neighborhood political operative, who talked about that Robinson wasn’t working effectively along with his sister. It was a minor change, Quinn mentioned, and welcome as a result of Chris Griswold had served as a advisor to his mayoral marketing campaign.
Broomfield Metropolis Councilman William Lindstedt additionally mentioned he spoke with Chris Griswold, who known as Robinson “sort of an attention-grabbing character.”
Quinn and Lindstedt mentioned they have been neither pressured nor requested to take motion towards Robinson.
Nonetheless, emails got here to the eye of Broomfield Metropolis and County Supervisor Jennifer Hoffman final month through which Robinson described one in all Griswold’s latest applications as an “(expletive) present” and one in all Robinson’s workers used a barnyard epithet in describing one of many secretary’s city corridor conferences.
Hoffman chastised the staff within the disciplinary listening to.
“I’m so (expletive) upset proper now with the 2 of you, I can’t even see straight,” Hoffman mentioned.
She expressed hope {that a} information story on the subject wouldn’t come out as a result of it will solely injury the state’s election.
“The nearer to the election they begin jacking round with ‘the unprofessional neophyte that Jena Griswold is,’ the more severe it makes it for the state of Colorado,” Hoffman mentioned.
Hoffman really useful the Metropolis Council fireplace Robinson. She was positioned on every week of paid administrative go away however stored her job. Hoffman declined to debate the state of affairs with The Put up, calling it a personnel matter.
Others clerks have had considerations or disagreements, too.
Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell mentioned Griswold’s penchant for the highlight has made her place a bit extra sophisticated and that the state workplace may talk higher with county clerks.
“There’s rather a lot happening, a whole lot of totally different messages, and we simply want to stay with how we run elections right here in Colorado,” Mitchell mentioned. “Simply follow our guidelines and legal guidelines and ensure we’re operating the most effective elections we will run.”
These and different considerations would possibly effectively be legitimate, Rosenoer mentioned. No one’s good proper out of the gate.
“Secretary Griswold was elected as a human to do a job, and it takes some time to determine that job,” she mentioned. “If we wish actual folks to run for workplace, we want to have the ability to give them some grace to determine that function.”
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Griswold mentioned she is happy along with her efficiency as secretary of state, which has elevated voter turnout and improved safety features even throughout an unprecedented pandemic. Now she’s seeking to increase voter turnout and entry on Native American reservations and extra.
Definitely, there’s a chance of pursuing increased political workplace, mentioned Griswold, who thought of operating towards U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner months after she took workplace. However for now she’s centered on the right here and now.
“I actually don’t know the place I might be in 10, 15 years,” Griswold mentioned. “I wished to present again to Colorado. I’m actually joyful to have the ability to function secretary of state, particularly in these making an attempt circumstances.”
Reporter Alex Burness contributed.


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