If you are a Republican in Colorado, the “good news” and the “bad news” are remarkably similar these days. Whatever decisions are ultimately made about the future of the GOP, the individuals who are involved in the party are stuck in a bizarre negative feedback loop that doesn’t appear likely to end anytime soon.
Let’s start with what could once have been objectively determined to be “good news.” On Saturday, Colorado Republicans managed to avoid disenfranchising more than a third of Colorado’s electorate when a majority of Republicans at a meeting of the State GOP central committee decided against opting out of the 2022 Primary election. As Jesse Paul reported for The Colorado Sun:
Colorado Republicans on Saturday rejected a contentious push to opt out of next year’s primaries, which would have blocked the state’s 1.7 million unaffiliated voters from helping to select the GOP’s 2022 general election candidates.
The vote, taken at a meeting in Pueblo of the party’s central committee members, was 241 opposed to opting out and 172 in favor, far less than the 75% support — or 380 votes — needed to pass.
The opt-out question received the support of just 34% of the Colorado GOP central committee. Backers of the initiative knew it was likely they would come up short of the 75% threshold, but were hoping to break 50% and send a clear message and potentially prompt a lawsuit challenging Colorado’s law allowing unaffiliated voters to participate in partisan primaries.
The central committee ultimately did vote to authorize the state party to file a legal challenge to the law, but it’s not clear if the lawsuit could proceed fast enough to affect the 2022 election. [Pols emphasis]
As you can see from that last paragraph, this fight still isn’t really over. By deciding to allow a lawsuit to go forward, Colorado Republicans kept alive a bugaboo that had been dividing the party faithful all summer.
Backers of the primary opt-out included high-ranking members of the Colorado Republican Party, among them State Republican Party Secretary Marilyn Harris; State GOP Vice Chair Priscilla Rahn; and Republican National Committee member Randy Corporon. The State GOP Chair, however, was of the opinion that she should not have an opinion. As The Colorado Sun reported after Saturday’s vote:
“We are focused on 2022 and winning over all voters in Colorado,” Burton Brown said in a written statement after Saturday’s vote. She didn’t take a public position on the opt out question. [Pols emphasis]
That’s some bold leadership, Cotton. On the bright side, at least THIS GOP Chairperson hasn’t yet been accused of stealing money from GOP PACs.
Republican candidates seeking office in 2022 were equally divided on Saturday’s big issue. Gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl, who is a member of the state GOP central committee, ducked questions about the subject for weeks before finally telling Ernest Luning of the publication formerly known as The Colorado Statesman that she would oppose opting out of the open primary. Fellow gubernatorial candidate Greg Lopez, however, didn’t respond to Luning’s request for comment. Republican Senate candidate Eli Bremer opposed opting out, but fellow Senate candidates Peter Yu and Erik Aadland both punted when asked to give an opinion.
Colorado Republicans have a special talent for pointing fingers at others, and it is this distrust and paranoia that is the real lesson from Saturday’s central committee meeting. To hear Republicans explain things, everybody is out to get everybody else, and there’s no convincing them otherwise.
As Luning reported, here’s what Bremer said in an email sent to Republicans ahead of Saturday’s vote:
“…self-interested individuals are trying to convince you that disenfranchising all Colorado Republican primary voters and driving independents into the arms of the Democrats is a way to succeed.”
Bremer is a former Chair of the El Paso County Republican Party whose family has been involved in Republican politics in Colorado for decades. It would be fair to call Bremer a GOP insider…but to hear another prominent Republican explain the state of affairs, it is exactly people like Bremer who DID want to opt out of the open primary.
Candi Boyer, the President (and Treasurer) of the El Paso County Republican Women’s group, was all worked up on Friday about the primary opt-out question which she says was an effort being pushed by “party elites.” Here’s what Boyer wrote in her own email to fellow Republicans before Saturday’s vote:
Some party insiders are trying to abolish the Republican primary and silence the voices of us 1 million Colorado Republicans…
…Don’t not [sic] let party elites rig the game by disenfranchising rank-and-file Republican voters.
That’s odd, because there were a lot of “party insiders” who were trying to prevent the opt-out vote, including former District Attorney and failed gubernatorial/attorney general candidate George Brauchler and former State Party Chair Dick Wadhams. The editorial board of the staunch conservative Colorado Springs Gazette even opined on Friday that opting out of the primary would amount to “political suicide.”
On the other hand (again), insider-y types such as state Rep. Dave Williams were leaders in the effort to convince Republicans to ditch the primary process and allow a small group of active Republicans to pick every GOP nominee for major office. Comically enough, Williams also believes that Republican primaries are being tainted by a “moderate” group called Unite America that most political operatives in Colorado believe to be a Republican-leaning organization.
There’s a similar fatalism playing out in Mesa County, where embattled Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters and her supporters believe that you are either with them or against them (even if you have been remarkably lenient with her criminal actions already). Peters is now mad at the all-Republican board of county commissioners because they declined to create a new rule just for her that circumvented existing sunshine laws.
The Tina Peters Story, Season 3, Episode 69: Angry about a @GjSentinel story, @MesaCountyClerk claims document she made public is not subject to #Colorado open records law. Meanwhile, #MesaCounty commissioners & her own attorney make it public. #copolitics https://t.co/23AiHUzQyg
— Charles Ashby (@OldNewsman) September 21, 2021
Republicans have been crushed in recent elections in Colorado, losing statewide races by an average of 10 points in 2018 and 2020. The GOP is currently having a hard time finding people who are interested in even trying to run for higher office, and why would they? Just last week, Ganahl blew up her entire campaign launch by repeatedly refusing to answer a simple question about the legitimacy of the 2020 election — because she is terrified of upsetting the loud minority of election truthers in the Colorado Republican Party who probably already think she is a lizard person from another planet.
If you’re into QAnon and similar baseless nonsense, then the Colorado Republican Party probably feels like home. You might say that the GOP in Colorado has already “opted out” of reality.