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March 24, 2023 01:13 PM UTC

Punching & Polling: New CO Republican Leader Wants GOP To Be 'More Like the Tea Party'

  • by: Erik Maulbetsch

(Back to the future — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

New Colorado GOP Chair Dave Williams won his race by uniting the clans.

As the newly elected Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, Dave Williams is making the obligatory rounds of the state’s numerous conservative talk radio shows. For the past two weeks, he’s been introducing himself to the party faithful, sharing his vision for revamping the state GOP, and taking some tough questions from the likes of George Brauchler, Deborah Flora, Dan Caplis, Peter Boyles and other mic-wielding Republicans from both wings of his party.

Yet while Williams makes his case on the radio, some prominent Republicans have either announced they are leaving the party, downplayed the significance of chair’s role, or criticized him directly for election denialism and for his links to fringe elements of the party.

Williams’s first on-air appearance, just hours after his election, was on the KNUS show of fellow election denier Randy Corporon, who was elected by state Republicans to serve on the Republican National Committee. Corporon, who also founded the influential Arapahoe County Tea Party (ACTP), was clearly thrilled at Williams’ win. He encouraged him to continue to court grassroots Republicans and invited him to speak at the next ACTP meeting. Williams replied, “I want to make the Republican Party more like the Tea Party.”

Williams was on less friendly ground a week later when he appeared on the Peter Boyles Show. Boyles, who’s been perhaps the loudest right-wing radio voice against election denialism and Trump (a marked departure from his vehement support of Trump’s racist “birther” conspiracy),  asked Williams about the challenge before him:

Peter Boyles: Can you feel the weight of this? You have to bring this thing like the Phoenix bird, out of the ashes?

Dave Williams: Yeah, for sure. It’s a weighty responsibility, especially when there is no other statewide Republican official that you can point to, Heidi [Ganahl], is no longer a regent. And prior to that was Cory [Gardner]. So now it’s fallen to me, to a certain extent, to be the voice of nearly one million Republicans, and that’s something not to take lightly. Boyles responded by asking Williams how he would win over more moderate Republicans.

Boyles: These guys are right-of-center. They’re not the lunatic fringe; they’re right-of-center guys. And how can you win them? Because elections are won in the middle. They’re not won by the Tina Peters supporters or guys that take rifles and shoot copying machines or wherever the hell that Hanks character did. This is not the stuff that’s going to get you across the finish line. How are you going to do it?

Williams: It starts with figuring out what our marketplace wants. We have to go to the voters, whether they’re Republican or unaffiliated, and we have to start asking them, ‘What are the issues you care about most?’

Williams repeated that same message a few days later on KNUS’ Deborah Flora Show:

“We’re not asking the marketplace what they want,” said Williams. “We’re kind of just kind of shooting in the dark, not really knowing what issues they care about. So we have to invest in good old fashioned polling that kind of tells us what issues do these people care about, and we can then align ourselves on those issues – without compromising who we are – and start to make some gains.”

That answer is the second half of the two-part message Williams pushed on all his radio appearances: First he says the party is going to “go on offense” against Democrats personally by “exposing their corruption.” Second, he says he’s going to rely on empirical data to determine the party’s policy priorities going forward.

His focus on polling data appears to be an attempt to push back against his well-established reputation as a far-right bomb-thrower, often against his own party. Boyles pointed out as much during their conversation, noting, “You’re hanging in a coalition right now of some frankly pretty nutty people.”

Williams did not respond to emails requesting comment on his two-point plan; both what evidence of moral and ethical corruption he expects to find on Democrats as well as any details about the upcoming polling project. This article will be updated with any response received.

“Establishment” Republicans have already made similar public statements, such as former chair Dick Wadhams, who previously wrote off the entire field of candidates and then told the Colorado Sun that if Williams delivers on his campaign promises, particularly his offer of a leadership role to Tina Peters, the party would “have no credibility.”

Wadhams went on to claim that the GOP caucus leaders at the statehouse, Sen. Paul Lundeen (R-Monument) and Rep. Mike Lynch (R-Wellington), are the real leaders of the party.

Williams told Brauchler he looks forward to sitting down with Wadhams for the good of the party. He also praised Michael Fields, who runs Advance Colorado, the dark money advocacy group that essentially helped previous Chair Kristi Burton Brown run the party.

Williams’s admiration wasn’t reciprocated by Fields, who says that the party chair just doesn’t matter much.

“[GOP party chairs] do have a platform in some ways,” Fields told the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul. “But the structure of how things work and where money goes is more robust than just what the state party committee is.”

Later that day Williams reiterated his willingness to meet with Wadhams on the Chuck & Julie podcast, albeit with a pretty pointed qualifier.

“I do want to sit down with Dick,” said Williams. “He knows a thing or two. He’s had success in the past, but if he’s going to continue to trash anyone in the party and talk about how Democrats are going to keep winning, then we’re obviously not going to work together. He can do whatever he’s doing in his lobbyist work to bring in more ‘affordable housing,’ meaning bringing in more Democrat voters.”

Another operative turned pundit, Krista Kafer, lamented Williams’ election in her own opinion column for the Denver Post, urging her fellow Republicans not to abandon the party as some have already done.

“Williams, an election denier and conspiracy theorist, believes Trump won in 2020 sans evidence… If sane Republicans leave the party, the con artist-crackpot contingent will gain more influence and visibility, prompting the flight of other mainstream Republicans. Unmitigated, this could trap the Colorado GOP in a death spiral just when the party should be rebounding as Trump sinks into ignominious insignificance.”

A longtime Republican consultant offered this off-the-record take on Williams’ win:

“Blackout-drunk on anger and high on lies, the Colorado Republican Committee awakened to the hangover of yet another electoral drubbing of its own making and has decided to reach for the bottle that brought them there in the first place.”

It remains to be seen whether Williams will conduct any polls, and, if so, whether the results will influence the party’s public priorities going forward.

But in the meantime, two of his first actions as chair appear to demonstrate he isn’t straying from his far-right grassroots comfort zone.

Earlier this week, Williams sent his first email to the Colorado GOP list, promoting a series of pro-gun events hosted not by a Republican entity, but by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a far-right gun group best known for attacking elected Republicans it views as insufficiently pure on the issue of firearms. The group has for over a decade repeatedly supported far-right candidates who win GOP primaries over more moderate Republicans but then go on to lose to Democrats in general elections.

Reached for comment on Williams becoming chair, RMGO Executive Director Taylor Rhodes expressed personal satisfaction at his friend’s win, but also echoed Fields’ statement that the position itself isn’t as significant as sometimes thought.

“Dave is a good friend of mine,” said Rhodes. “So, for personal reasons, I’m obviously happy he won, and I believe he will do a good job leading the party in one of its most tumultuous times in recent history. However, I think we far too often put more stock in political party leadership than we should. Ultimately, in my world, the party is just a means for ballot access. Whether it be one of our best friends or worst enemies, this doesn’t change all that much.”

On Wednesday, JeffCo Republican Weston Imer, who worked on Williams’ campaign for party chair, announced that he’s accepted a staff position with the party.

Reached for comment Imer confirmed he will be working with the party as an intern, but did not offer details about his role.

Williams didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment on Imer’s role or on the possibility of Tina Peters soliciting her national funders, such as Mike Lindell, for donations on behalf of the state party.

Like Williams, Imer is a pro-Trump activist who advocates for “true America First conservative grassroots leaders” and isn’t afraid to take on fellow Republicans. He celebrated Williams’ victory by posting a meme of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock with Williams’ name on Smith and “Establishment CO GOP” on Rock.

Williams describes himself as a “wartime leader.” in both his campaign speeches and subsequent radio interviews. More than one talk show host asked him to clarify just who he plans on going to war against- Democrats or “Establishment” Republicans?

Williams insists he’s targeting the opposing party exclusively. Yet so far his actions as chair include offering a job to Tina Peters, promoting RMGO, hiring Imer, and jabbing at Wadhams, all of which would seem to indicate that Williams is laying the groundwork for engaging in the battles he’s best known for: against Republicans.

This article first appeared in the Colorado Times Recorder.


10 thoughts on “Punching & Polling: New CO Republican Leader Wants GOP To Be ‘More Like the Tea Party’

  1. Williams: It starts with figuring out what our marketplace wants. We have to go to the voters, whether they’re Republican or unaffiliated, and we have to start asking them, ‘What are the issues you care about most?’

    Holy cats, where to start? First, any bonged-out freshman poli-sci student (not that I know what that's like, so they tell me) could have came up with that statement. Second, the voters and the marketplace already told you at least what they didn't want with the 2022 election results.

    1. As a former bonged-out freshman poli-sci student, I’d recommend starting with this:

      Boyles pointed out as much during their conversation, noting, “You’re hanging in a coalition right now of some frankly pretty nutty people.”

      Then, after you finally do stop laughing and guffawing at the comical level of denial and disconnect there, probably another giant bong hit?  Followed by another and another and …

      Like my college t-shirt said: “[Peter, Dave] Your Problem is Obvious”

  2. Dave Williams to Colorado:

    “Don’t confuse us with those delusional wackos; we’re these delusional wackos.  

    Thank you for your support.”

  3. Meantime … the Colorado GOP page still features

     * a recording of "Our Chairwoman,"

     * the LATEST NEWS AND UPDATES, "Time for Adam Frisch to do the right thing and put Colorado taxpayers first" November 30, 2022

     * a tweet from Ken Buck, dated 11 March

     * Officers page with pictures and contact link but no bio for  Dave Williams, State Party Chairman and Anna Ferguson, State Party Secretary

     * "COLORADO REPUBLICAN PARTY STAFF" with a blank white space

     * and a merch page with 41 items (7 of them anti-Polis).

  4. Polling will give obvious answers. What people want are good roads, decent schools, and no homeless people on the street corners. Plus, they want high-paying jobs, cheap rent, and low taxes. Coming up with a platform that promises those things is easy.

    1. Promising this platform might be easy, but the combo of good roads, decent schools and low taxes doesn't seem to work for me mathematically, at least without massive borrowing or federal subsidy. The CO GOP in particular has given all kinds of lip service to transportation, but fought every recent significant road improvement bill or initiative except the one for billions in bonding with no revenue increases.

  5. The Tea Party of 2010?

    They were relatively bland and vanilla compared to the MAGA psychos of 2020.

    Are they sure they want to become so tame?

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