The Denver Post’s Conrad Swanson reports after last weekend’s election for the next leader of the Colorado Republican Party–won after three rounds of voting by the party’s Central Committee by current vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown over insider-backed former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, it’s a result that will shape the state’s minority party for the next two years and beyond:
After nearly nine hours and three rounds of voting, Burton Brown nudged out former secretary of state Scott Gessler as the top vote getter. Party members also elected unsuccessful University of Colorado regent candidate Priscilla Rahn to the vice chair position and unsuccessful state House candidate Marilyn Harris as secretary.
Before the vote, Burton Brown promised to take back Colorado for Republicans and defend the state against Democrats “trying to take away our freedoms and tax Coloradans into poverty.”
…Burton Brown painted herself as a bridge builder and unifier who has the skills to establish message discipline and better fundraising and candidate support mechanisms, specifically to unseat Gov. Jared Polis — whom she described as “King Polis — and state Attorney General Phil Weiser, Secretary of State Jena Griswold, Treasurer Dave Young and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.
The Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul:
Burton Brown said she plans on reversing the party’s fortunes by recruiting a diverse slate of candidates and by tapping into the growing share of unaffiliated voters in Colorado. She thinks that Republicans must also do a better job of marketing themselves.
Asked whether Trump will continue to dominate Republican politics in Colorado and across the nation, she said yes. “The Republican Party will never go back to the pre-Trump era,” Burton Brown said during an interview earlier this year. [Pols emphasis]
We’ll start with the most relevant fact: Former Secretary of State Gessler was the favorite in this race, and Burton Brown’s victory is an upset. Coming into this race, Gessler had lined up support on the establishment side of the party against Burton Brown’s backing from a coalition of religious conservatives, “MAGA” activists, and the Colorado GOP’s everpresent gun-rights wing headed by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.
So why did Gessler lose despite his insider connections and long list of big-name endorsements? It’s simple: the pre-Trump leadership of the Republican Party has been effectively sidelined by a new generation of “MAGA” zealots typified by Lauren Boebert, and Burton Brown better appeals to them than Gessler’s “old school” political insider image. However the mainstream may feel about Boebert in particular, her power has been affirmed within the GOP rank-and-file in what does appear to be a pivotal endorsement of Burton Brown to lead the state party.
Make no mistake, for anyone hoping to see the Republican Party change course after two of the most devastating election cycles for the party in Colorado’s history, this is not good news. Gessler may have a credibility deficit on the subject of election fraud, but he most certainly would have been a more competent administrator of party programs than Burton Brown. Burton Brown’s lead role in the disastrous failed recall of Rep. Tom Sullivan raises basic questions about her judgment, and arguably Burton Brown has just been rewarded for her role in the GOP’s resounding defeat at the polls last year.
With this victory, factions of the Colorado Republican Party who have been on the outs like the Neville/RMGO political machine get a lifeline. Boebert solidifies her status as a major player in Colorado GOP decisionmaking. And the Colorado GOP joins the steady migration to the ideological fringe by state party organizations being witnessed across the nation.
On the upside, Republicans might not spend the next two years tilting at Gessler’s windmills.