Secretary of State-elect Jena Griswold announced her picks for key staff positions today, and the hires give us a real sense of where this office is headed after eight years of varyingly controversial Republican control:
I’m excited to announce my senior team who will join me on 1/8/19 in SOS office: Deputy SOS Jenny Flanagan, Senior Advisor Ben Schler, Director of Government & Public Affairs Shad Murib, and Communications Director Serena Woods!
— Jena Griswold (@JenaGriswold) December 19, 2018
Colorado’s new Deputy Secretary of State Jenny Flanagan is a longtime executive staffer at the national voting-rights advocacy group Common Cause, a group that played a large role in the election reforms passed in Colorado in 2013 that have boosted turnout in this state to second in the nation in 2018. Shad Murib comes to the Secretary of State’s office by way of the Senate Democratic staff, while Serena Woods is a veteran of numerous campaigns and nonprofits working at the state capitol. Ben Schler is the one high-level staffer in this announced group staying on from the previous administration to provide continuing expertise.
Although his four years in office were not free of controversy from Jon Keyser’s fraudulent petitions to a still-pending ethics matter over personal purchases on his office’s discretionary account, it should be acknowledged that Griswold is set to inherit a functional Secretary of State’s office from outgoing Republican Wayne Williams. Although Williams joined in local Republicans’ now-proven laughable trashing of House Bill 13-1303, the legislation responsible for making Colorado’s ballot one of the nation’s most accessible, when it came to the law’s implementation once elected he shares some credit for making our mail ballot/same day registration elections a national model. Although Republicans proved they could win elections too with mail ballots in 2014, there were more than a few in Williams’ own party who just plain don’t want high turnout elections.
With that said, Williams proved himself to be a partisan Republican operator in clutch moments, like Walker Stapleton’s own petition fraud scandal this year, that remind us all again how inherently conflicted this office is–and how important it is for the Secretary of State to maintain high ethical standards. Williams wasn’t quite the brazen partisan his predecessor Scott “Honey Badger” Gessler was, but he was ready to run cover for Republicans when it mattered most.
Is the new Secretary of State also a partisan elected official? Of course. The difference is, maximizing voter turnout and accountability for election finance shenanigans pose no political conflict of interest for Colorado’s new Democratic Secretary of State.
So yes, it’s going to be different now, and we’re excited to see how much.