After the announcement last week of approved recall petitions to circulate against freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan of HD-37 Centennial filed by Colorado Republican Party vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown, a major disagreement has erupted within the Republican coalition with a significant faction including Sullivan’s ousted Republican predecessor Cole Wist condemning the effort of both morally and strategically self-destructive for the GOP.
Faced with this unexpected intraparty criticism, as Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland reports, there’s an effort underway now to distance the actions of the Colorado GOP vice chair from the party as a whole:
“I would like definitely like to emphasize I’m doing this in my individual capacity as a citizen and a parent in House District 37,” Brown said. “Yes, I happened to be the vice-chair of the party, but I considered filing this recall before I got elected.”
Brown was elected to party leadership alongside Chairman Ken Buck on March 30. The “red flag” gun bill, one of the chief irritants that critics cite as the reason for the recall, passed the legislature April 1 and Gov. Jared Polis signed it 11 days later. Buck has called for the state party to be more active in recalls, but didn’t say what the official role would be in this instance.
“Kristi initiated the recall effort in her personal capacity, not as part of her leadership role with the state party. We will evaluate the HD 37 recall as it proceeds, just as we do with any potential recall or election,” Buck said.
The distinction between a Colorado Republican Party which has openly embraced the recall strategy to blunt increasingly landslide Democratic victories in general election and one of the state party’s highest officer’s personal action to initiate the recall of Rep. Sullivan is, in a word, preposterous. It’s a direct result of the condemnation of this recall attempt in particular by fellow Republicans, which makes it difficult for the party apparatus to publicly engage as party chair Rep. Ken Buck promised they would.
As readers know, vice chair Kristi Burton Brown’s principal allies in her “personal” campaign to recall Rep. Sullivan are House Minority Leader Patrick Neville and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, both of whom view recalling Sullivan as a step to restoring their own damaged credibility after 2018’s heavy losses.
To summarize, you have a Colorado Republicans led by officials who have promised to support recalls, and a recall effort against a freshman House member initiated by the party’s vice chair and supported by the House minority leader’s political machine. Yet we’re being asked to believe that this is not a campaign sanctioned by the highest levels of the Colorado GOP–which is conveniently also what allows the Sullivan recall’s Republican opponents to focus their anger on the lightning rod of RMGO instead of acknowledging the bigger problem.
The campaign to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was murdered in the Aurora shooting leading to Sullivan’s run for office on a platform of gun safety, is being run in-house by the Colorado Republican Party far more than any previous effort–including the recalls of 2013. Being by orders of magnitude the most divisive recall effort yet undertaken, including everything that happened in 2013, this is either a sign of a brazenness we haven’t seen before from a major state party or severe mismanagement that is going to further damage an already severely weakened coalition.
If you’re a Republican and against the Sullivan recall, it’s not enough to idly say so while hunting scapegoats.
It’s time to make a choice. What are you willing to live with and still call yourself a Republican?