As you may have read by now, the Denver Post’s editorial board laid into the Colorado Republican Party this morning for their disastrous selection of former state Rep. Dave “Let’s Go Brandon” Williams to serve as the next party chairman, succeeding Kristi Burton Brown who presided over a 2022 election cycle that will go into the history books as an “extinction-level event.”
We’ll give the Post credit for their unsparing condemnation of Williams, who has a well-earned reputation for Ted Cruz levels of bipartisan disaffection:
We aren’t sure exactly what was going through the heads of the approximately 200 Republican Party leaders who voted for Williams. We thought that conservative El Paso County sent a pretty clear message about Williams’ divisive brand of politics – often divorced from reality – when only 33% of voters in Congressional District 5 supported Williams.
A conservative who can’t win a majority in El Paso County against a flawed incumbent who faced an embarrassing personal scandal involving the misuse of congressional office resources, including allowing his son to sleep in Capitol office space, should be a red flag to those who hope for a Republican Party comeback.
And yet, Williams is now bearing the standard for the Colorado GOP…
There’s little to argue with in the Post’s thorough takedown of Williams’ career going back to anti-LGBT antics on the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs campus. Succeeding the equally offensive Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt in deep-red House District 15, Williams built his career on pushing the rhetorical envelope on the full range of far-right causes from election denial to militant anti-vaxxism. With Williams at the helm, the Colorado Republican Party is headed for two more years in open opposition to the sensibilities of a majority of Colorado voters. After the catastrophic 2022 midterms that were supposed to mark the beginning of a comeback, short of perhaps Tina Peters herself, Williams is the worst possible choice to lead the party into 2024.
From there, we are obliged to correct the record on an important point next raised in this editorial:
The second-place choice, Erik Aadland, would have been a much wiser choice.
Aadland is a thoughtful man who served this country in the Marines. Yes, he was caught on camera once fully endorsing the stolen election conspiracy, but Aadland has worked hard to distance himself from that position, including taking a more forceful stance against the election lies when he ran for Congress than GOP candidate for governor, Heidi Ganahl, did in 2020.
This favorable depiction of an election denier who found truth is not our experience with failed 2022 CD-7 candidate Erik “Oddland” Aadland, who–as this attempted whitewash makes clear–tells different audiences different stories about the 2020 presidential election based on what he thinks they want to hear. When directly called out for his very clear previous assertions during a debate last fall against now-Rep. Brittany Pettersen, Aadland made a fool of himself trying to bothsides the issue:
The closest Aadland came in this debate to admitting he was wrong about the 2020 elections is when he said he has “evolved” from the speech he gave at the start of his campaign claiming the election was “absolutely rigged”–“recognizing the divisiveness of that language.” But as we’ve seen in other debates this year, conceding a viewpoint is “divisive” is not the same as admitting it was wrong. Especially not while Aadland insists the real problem is Hillary Clinton.
And sure enough, during his campaign for GOP chair, Aadland coyly hedged his words for the GOP faithful, even while correctly saying that rehashing 2020 is a losing issue:
“Clearly Biden won, by hook or by crook,” [Pols emphasis] says Aadland.
In short, sure–Erik Aadland doesn’t want to talk about 2020 anymore. We get that. But he’s also never going to say the words that would truly put his election conspiracy theorist background behind him, at least not so long as he still entertains the idea of public office as a Republican someday. There are just too many Republicans for whom the Big Lie is gospel truth, and it’s clear that Aadland only “softened” his position for short-term political expediency. As much of a danger as Dave Williams represents to Republicans’ ongoing viability in a state that has been steadily shifting leftward for many years, it’s equally dangerous to let election deniers like Erik Aadland off the hook for views they haven’t actually repudiated.
Dave Williams is a disaster, but there were also no good alternatives. Admitting to the former comes easy, especially considering how many Republicans don’t like Williams. But the latter contains the hardest truth for Colorado Republicans.