The Circle of Strife: What Does “Winning” Really Mean?

[Pols Note: This is Part 3 of a three-part series. Click for Part 1 and Part 2]

Take a look at this headline from POLITICO and see if it seems familiar:

The story that goes with the headline is about Arizona, but it could apply equally to Colorado.

In Arizona, Republicans are rushing to censure each other for all matter of grievances — real and perceived — from the 2022 election cycle. The same thing has happened in Colorado: The El Paso County Republican Party voted to censure a bunch of Republicans on the weekend before Election Day, and the State Republican Party responded a few weeks later by censuring the El Paso County Republicans who did the earlier censuring.

Best in years? Gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl and Senate candidate Joe O’Dea lost their 2022 races by a combined 33 points.

Republicans in Arizona insist that they had strong candidates in 2022. One GOP strategist told POLITICO that gubernatorial loser Kari Lake was “the best candidate in anyone’s lifetime.” Following significant losses in Colorado last November, both State Party Chairperson Kristi Burton Brown (KBB) and former State Party Chairperson Dick Wadhams told reporters something very similar; they claimed that Colorado Republicans in 2022 had the best slate of candidates the GOP has seen in years. That’s an ominous takeaway when all of those top-ticket candidates were crushed at the polls by their Democratic opponents.

In Arizona, the outgoing State Republican Party Chair (Kelli Ward) recently told a gathering of Republicans that, “Things at the party are going great.” In Colorado, this is one message that Republicans don’t seem to be willing or able to repeat.

As Colorado Republicans prepare to elect a new State Party Chairperson next month, they are grappling with many of the same problems as their counterparts in Arizona. As Kyle Clark of 9News recently summarized on the Get More Smarter Podcast:

I think the broader question for Colorado Republicans is, ‘Do you want to win?’ I think, for a lot of them, the answer is ‘no’.

[Their answer is that] I want to stand for what I believe in and I want to influence the policy debate in that direction. I’m not interested in putting up centrists. I’m interested in putting up people who reflect my views, even if they lose. And you know what, it’s their party. They get to do what they want. 

This quote also fits perfectly in any discussion about the next State Party Chair. While other candidates could emerge between now and March 11, the current field of challengers  include Casper Stockham, Erik Aadland, and Aaron Wood. Former State Senate candidate Stephen Varela had made noise about a potential campaign but seems to have backed away since winning a vacancy committee appointment to serve on the State Board of Education.

Perhaps Stockham, Aadland, or Wood will prove to have the leadership chops to right the sinking Colorado Republican ship…but their resumes do not inspire confidence. Stockham ran for State Party Chair in 2021 and lost, an effort that followed consecutive defeats as a candidate in CO-01 and CO-07 (Stockham was also a candidate in CO-06 for a time). Aadland was an unknown candidate when he ran for the Republican Senate nomination in 2021 before switching his candidacy to CO-07; he lost to Democrat Brittany Pettersen by 15 points. Wood is an activist who founded the organization (or perhaps just a website) called the “Save Colorado Project“; he was involved in the infamous “Boot Barn” protest in late November in which GOP leadership was derided as “whores” and “asswipes.

Stockham, Aadland, and Wood may not be the most, um, exciting candidates for State Party Chair, but the bar for success in 2024 is pretty damn low. Take a look at how recent GOP leaders have fared in the charts below:



Any one of the current crop of State Party Chairperson candidates could reasonably tell GOP activists that they will have more success than their predecessors. Of course, you could also argue that Republicans would improve under the leadership of a block of cheese. Things have gotten THAT bad for the GOP.

This will also be the fourth consecutive cycle in which the previous State Party Chairperson chose not to run for re-election. Nobody has even tried to get re-elected since Steve House defeated Ryan Call in 2015. Colorado Republicans had their last real taste of success in Call’s final term in 2014; oddly enough, Call would go on to face accusations of “misappropriating” hundreds of thousands of dollars from a pro-Donald Trump SuperPAC.

Some, if not all, of the GOP candidates for State Chair will argue that the best way forward for Republicans is to move further to the right. There are a good number of people in the GOP base who will agree with that sentiment. Thus the March 11 election for State Party Chair might be less about personalities and more about deciding the most popular definition of “winning.”

7 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    "Save Colorado Project: We the People Have Had Enough."

    Two questions quickly come to mind. What are they saving Colorado from? Who is "we the people?"

    • 2Jung2Die says:

      I at first wanted to do a drive-by comment on "we the people," but read a bit and found the topic sort of interesting. Here's a take from a law prof, posted on National Constitution Center:

      Importantly, the Preamble declares who is enacting this Constitution—the people of “the United States.” The document is the collective enactment of all U.S. citizens. The Constitution is “owned” (so to speak) by the people, not by the government or any branch thereof. We the People are the stewards of the U.S. Constitution and remain ultimately responsible for its continued existence and its faithful interpretation. 

      I read the Preamble a few times, and wondered if "we the people" could be interpreted to mean the framers of the Constitution or the signatories, since the end of the Preamble says the people "ordain" the Constitution. I wondered if it might pertain to white male landowners only, since people of all stripes did not enjoy the full range of rights at the time of ratification.

      But there are also a bunch of values in the Preamble – justice, domestic tranquility, general welfare – that to me sound like they're meant to be universal and not based on things like race, gender, or religion. For this reason and what the law prof said, I find it troublesome that people would try to claim or co-opt "we the people" in ways that try to sell that it applies to people sharing their political philosophies only.



  2. NOV GOP meltdown says:

    I think it goes further than that. It's the dumb shit they want to talk about that isn't even remotely true. Like claiming a completely above-board election is rigged, or furries, or QAnon, or Obama isn't an American, or Denver bike sharing being tantamount to UN world domination.

    These are not good looks for the sane crowd, but they just can't help themselves…

  3. Pam Bennett says:

    I will posit that the Colorado gop failure goes back to the late 1990's during which time they worked to remove members from the middle and middle right, along with women, from office.  It was the late Reagan and Bush I era, when the big lie of the "welfare queen" was created.  Greedy old perverts were starting the move to make Colorado the real white state.

    The lurch right was sudden and direct. It was the blatant change from a Colorado that was red to one that is Blue (except for a lot of prairie and dust).

  4. spaceman2021 says:

    Of course, Ryan Call isn't exactly a role model, given his disbarment for "misappropriating" donor funds.  KBB is ridiculous, but so far hasn't done that as far as I know. 

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