If you don’t already subscribe to the Colorado Sun’s Unaffiliated newsletter, you’re missing out on one of the better periodic updates on local political news produced today. In today’s Unaffiliated, the Sun’s political team takes a look at an unusually public campaign by Colorado Republicans to support conservative activist candidates in nominally nonpartisan municipal elections:
Denver Post columnist and think tank fellow Krista Kafer announced she’s running for an at-large seat on the Littleton City Council. She joins Dustin Zvonek, a former Americans for Prosperity director and Republican campaign worker who is running for Aurora City Council.
Conservative groups are also discussing the need to support school board candidates and participate in the Nov. 2 election as poll watchers or election judges, even though there are no federal races…
Colorado school board and city council contests are nonpartisan. Still, in a July 6 email, Colorado Republican Party Chair Kristi Burton Brown wrote: “In order to combat the Democrats’ devastating policies, please choose a local candidate you can adopt for the November 2021 races. Whether it’s a mayor, city council, or school board race — each of our good candidates needs your help. Please jump in, and we’ll also be jumping in as the state party.” [Pols emphasis]
It’s neither news nor scandalous that nonpartisan municipal elected offices regularly serve as incubators for future leaders, who will in due course shed their “nonpartisan” cloak and run for higher office as partisan candidates. But it’s odd and risky for Colorado Republican Party chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown to publicly declare that the GOP has a slate of “our good candidates” she wants the party faithful to support, particularly given the growing unpopularity of the Republican brand in populated areas of the state. In Grand Junction last April, a similarly explicitly GOP-backed slate of city council candidates was defeated in a turnabout that raises serious questions about the wisdom of this strategy.
In Aurora, former staffer for now-Mayor Mike Coffman Dustin Zvonek is gambling in his race for City Council that voters either won’t hear about or will actually be attracted to his Republican bonafides. After Coffman himself barely prevailed in his election for Mayor in 2019, that’s not a bet we would ourselves take. After Coffman sued the city to make sure he could be directly involved in supporting Zvonek’s campaign, though, it’s arguable the game was up. The Republican brand has only declined in popularity in Colorado since 2019, and instead of being an asset to Zvonek, his race may tell us whether usual-suspect Republicans can live down their party’s toxicity under these thinnest of pretenses.
If the answer turns out to be no, maybe don’t be so obvious about it next time.