AP’s Nick Riccardi via the Denver Post with the lede on the results of yesterday’s election of a new Colorado Republican Party chair to succeed the outgoing Kristi Burton Brown–and we couldn’t write it any better:
The Colorado Republican Party on Saturday selected a combative former state representative who promised to be a “wartime” leader as its new chairman, joining several other state GOPs this year that have elected far-right figures and election conspiracy theorists to their top posts.
The move in Colorado comes as the party totters on the brink of political irrelevance in a state moving swiftly to the left.
Former State Rep. Dave Williams, who unsuccessfully tried to insert the phrase “Let’s Go Brandon” into his name on the party’s primary ballot last year and insists — incorrectly — that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election, was selected by the party’s executive committee out of a seven-person field.
Let’s start with the most important piece of context: there were no good choices among the seven candidates vying to take over as the recipient of the six-digit salary afforded to state Republican party chairpersons. It’s not necessary to take our word for that bleak assessment, which was delivered by former Republican Party chairman Dick Wadhams weeks ago:
The choice for state chairman is no choice at all.
Every one of these six candidates would drive the party into deeper oblivion with their conspiratorial, exclusionary and politically naïve agendas that are already repelling a rapidly changing Colorado electorate.
But sadly for Mr. Wadhams, “no choice” was not an option for Colorado GOP Central Committee members yesterday, who were obliged to choose from a field of either unknown placeholders or some of the most colorfully dysfunctional figures in Colorado conservative politics. We were surprised to see former Sen. Kevin Lundberg, arguably the only candidate with the requisite experience to run a state party, underperform our expectations through the first two rounds of balloting.
The decisive moment in yesterday’s selection process came when indicted former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters announced that hers and Lundberg’s supporters were switching to back former Rep. Dave “Let’s Go Brandon” Williams in the third round of voting. After the other minor contenders had been eliminated, this left Williams in a head-to-head matchup against fellow election conspiracy theorist and shellacked 2020 CD-7 candidate Erik Aadland–the outcome of which was not in doubt after the shift of Peters’ and Lundberg’s supporters to Williams.
During his time in the Colorado House, Rep. Williams helped anchor the fringe of the Republican caucus along with contemporaries like ex-Minority Leader Patrick Neville and conspiracy theory multitool Rep. Ron Hanks. Along the way, Williams became the go-to champion of basically every conservative moral panic and conspiracy theory that circulated in the Donald Trump era, from anti-vaxxism even before COVID-19 vaccines made it fashionable to calling on Trump to send federal troops to crush racial justice protests in the summer of 2020. Williams’ humiliating loss in his 2022 primary challenge against Rep. Doug Lamborn cut short Williams’ service in the Colorado House, and also further embittered Williams against the Republican establishment.
Most recently, Williams has been solidly aligned with the “Ultra MAGA” faction of Colorado Republicans in El Paso County led by embattled but strangely durable chair Vickie Tonkins–whose incompetence in carrying out the basic operations of the county party became so severe during the last election that “mainstream” Republicans set up a shadow campaign organization or their own in Colorado’s largest conservative stronghold. Williams’ victory in the state party chair race effectively pulls the rugs out from that operation, and it’s anybody’s guess now how the party grassroots represented by Williams will interface with the “corporate wing” of the party for the next election cycle.
For Colorado Republicans, this is a sea change event–and not in a good way. The faction of Republicans who want to “move on” from the 2020 election and offer a fresh alternative to super-majority Democrats have been decisively rejected by their own party. Last year, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea tried to run to the center but was hobbled at every step by his need to pander to the far right in the primary. As of today, there is no question who is in charge of the Colorado GOP–the very same election-denying conspiracy-theorizing vaccine-refusing militia-marching crazies Joe O’Dea tried to distance himself from.
Colorado Republicans, with little left to lose, have decided that winning isn’t what matters anymore.