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The 'big lie' about the 2020 election continues to reverberate around the Mountain West

Supporters of former President Donald Trump gathered in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, during the insurrection.
Brett Davis
Flickr Creative Commons
Supporters of former President Donald Trump gathered in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, during the insurrection.

News brief

A Colorado state senator has changed parties from Republican to Democrat over the GOP’s stance on climate change and unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 presidential election.

“I cannot continue to be part of a political party that is okay with a violent attempt to overturn a free and fair election and continues to peddle claims that the 2020 election was stolen,” Colorado Sen. Kevin Priola said in a statement about the change.

Priola’s changing affiliation is just one of the many instances the “big lie” — former President Donald Trump's baseless assertion that voter fraud helped President Joe Biden win — keeps cropping up in the Mountain West.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican who voted to impeach Trump and vice chair of the House committee that's investigating his involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, has been vocally combating the false 2020 election fraud narrative.

She was defeated by a Trump loyalist in the state's primary last week.

Sen. Mitt Romney in Utah has also spoken out against Trump's election lies. But plenty more Republicans in the region toe Trump’s line, including Idaho Rep. Russ Fulcher (who supported an objection to 2020 election results), and the far more vocal Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert.

Boise State University political scientist Jaclyn Kettler says nearly two years after the 2020 election, the claims remain divisive within the GOP — even for conservatives like Cheney and Priola who don’t support more gun control or expanded abortion access.

“It does seem like the allegiance to former President Trump’s position on this issue — some of these issues — will continue to have a major dividing line within the Republican party, perhaps pushing out some of these Republicans that disagree with those claims,” she said.

The issue may even play a role in the upcoming national Senate elections, in which Nevada, Arizona and Colorado have key races.

A survey of people in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming last fall by the Frank Church Institute at Boise State University found that only half of people believed Joe Biden legitimately won the election.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

Madelyn Beck is a regional Illinois reporter, based in Galesburg. On top of her work for Harvest Public Media, she also contributes to WVIK, Tri-States Public Radio and the Illinois Newsroom collaborative.