Future of the Colorado Republican Party to be determined through party leader vote

denver colorado state capitol
Posted at 7:20 PM, Feb 28, 2023

DENVER — In two weeks, the Colorado Republican Party will make an important decision about who their new leader will be.

The vote comes after current party chair Kristi Burton Brown announced after the midterm elections that she will not seek reelection, leaving the field open for a new face to take the reins.

“I think after every election, it's important to really look and say, ‘Where can I be the most influential?’” said Burton Brown.

She plans to transition her focus to policy positions and ballot initiatives, but says she’s excited to see who the next party chair will be.

As her last act, Burton Brown will run the election for party chair and says her successor will have a big task: guiding the party through the 2024 election.

“The next state party chairman really needs to be realistic about the place we are in Colorado as Republicans. I think if anyone is telling you, ‘Hey, we need to give up on our principles and just appeal to you,’ no,” Burton Brown said.

At the same time, she believes the next chair should focus on finding candidates that can fit the unique needs of individual districts to appeal to voters.

Burton Brown also hopes the next state chair will have a clear plan to defend Congressional District 3 — where U.S. Congresswoman Lauren Boebert is already facing a Democratic challenger — and offer a serious challenge to U.S. Congresswoman Yadira Caraveo in the 8th Congressional District.

School board races and city council elections will also be important elections for the state party chair to focus on.

Burton Brown will not be publicly endorsing any of the candidates who are running to take over her role. However, she says she wants to see someone who will bring the party together rather than drawing divisions and who will focus on the future.

“I think the next state chairman has to have a calm, level head on their shoulders. Someone who's able to sort through all the voices, but give value to every person in our party. No voice should be shut out, no wing needs to be stopped down,” she said.

Right now, there are six people who have thrown their names in the ring to take the helm of the Colorado Republican Party. They include Tina Peters, Dave Williams, Erik Aadland, Kevin Lundberg, Casper Stockham and Aaron Wood.

Peters is currently facing seven felony charges for allegedly tampering with voting equipment after the 2020 election. A jury trial on some of those charges is slated for March.

Peters is not the only candidate who has denied the results of the 2020 election. Former state Rep. Dave Williams, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Congressman Doug Lamborn in 2022, has also been a vocal critic of the election, even speaking at a Mike Lindell rally last year.

In fact, almost all of the party chair candidates have questioned or cast doubts on the 2020 election results to some capacity.

“There's no middle ground in that party right now, and that's a difficult place for a state party chair to be,” said Robert Preuhs, professor and chair of the political science department at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

In a lot of ways, Preuhs says the Colorado Republican Party is reflective of national politics. However, he says if the Colorado GOP can’t come together, it runs the risk of becoming a permanent minority party.

“Given the number of candidates and the high profile, I think it's pretty good chance that the Republican Party will elect someone from that more Trump side of the Republican faction," Preuhs said.

The party chair not only serves as the face of the party, but also has considerable influence over the primary process, how state party funds are distributed, which candidates receive support and more.

However, conservative strategist and columnist Sage Naumann says over the past couple of decades, with the advent of social media and more independent strategy groups in the state, he sees the role of the part chair declining, saying the average voter has no idea who is running each party. Naumann admits, though, that the party is in a serious period of change after a series of losses in the 2022 election.

“You can call it the, at the most peaceful, it's a transition period. At the worst, it's a civil war of some sorts in the party,” Naumann said.

Nevertheless, he doesn’t envy the person who will take over Burton Brown’s job, pointing out that she received considerable criticism and name-calling from within her own party during her tenure.

He’s concerned about the direction the party is going and says he doesn’t have confidence in any of the six party chair candidates.

“If our news coverage of Republicans is focused on the infighting that's occurring at the state or county level, we have completely failed. And that has dominated the news cycle over the last few months,” Naumann said.

Instead, he wants to see the candidates focus less on relitigating previous elections and more on fighting for the party’s values and issues, like crime, homelessness, the economy and more.

Naumann knows some are likely applauding the infighting happening within the Republican Party at the moment, but he warns that a one-party state is detrimental.

“We should want two parties that are saying, that are coming to the table with real solutions and ideas. And I would hope that anybody would want that. And right now, it seems like a lot of people are rooting for chaos,” Naumann said. “It does nobody any benefit for an entire political party to implode on itself.”

For Burton Brown’s part, with so much happening in the state, she doesn’t thing a one-issue candidate will be an effective chairperson for a major political party and says she’s already made her thoughts clear on Tina Peters during the 2022 elections.

For now, the direction of the Colorado Republican Party will come down to roughly 400 Republicans, who will vote on the new party chair in two weeks.

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