Colorado GOP selects new leader who rejects belligerence
LOVELAND, Colo. (AP) – The Colorado Republican Party on Saturday chose an embattled former state representative who promised to be a “wartime” leader as its new chairman, joining several other state GOPs this year that has elected far-right figures and election conspiracy theorists to their top posts.
The move in Colorado comes as the party teeters on the brink of political irrelevance in a state that is moving rapidly to the left.
Former state Rep. Dave Williams, who tried unsuccessfully to insert the phrase “Let’s Go Brandon” into his name on the party’s primary ballot last year and insists — wrong – that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election, was selected by the party’s executive committee from a field of seven people.
Williams crossed the required threshold of 50% in the third vote after being endorsed by one of his competitors, defendant fhv. Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, which had not exceeded 10%. Peter’s faces seven charges for her alleged role in illegal access to voting machines in her county. She has denied the charges while becoming a prominent national figure in the the election conspiracy movement.
A three-term state representative from a conservative district in the city of Colorado Springs, Williams unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Doug Lamborn in the Republican primary last year. The Colorado Secretary of State’s office rejected his attempt to include a popular conservative phrase denigrating President Joe Biden in his name on the ballot. A judge agreed that Williams could not be known as Dave “Let’s Go Brandon” Williams.
In his speech to nearly 400 hardcore Republican activists and party leaders, Williams reiterated the themes he hit during his campaign — that the party’s recent poor performance in Colorado is simply due to it not fighting hard enough, not a disconnect between its activists and the majority of the state’s voters .
“Our party does not have a brand problem,” Williams told the group. “Our party has a problem with unfair leaders. … We need a war leader.”
Election deniers has won three other state party chair positions recently — in Idaho, Kansas and Michigan – and as his party reeling from a brutal 2022 election year.
Republicans lost every state election last year by double digits and are down to their lowest share of the state legislature in Colorado history. They haven’t won a major statewide race since 2014 and lag well behind Democrats and unaffiliated voters in registration.
Like six of the seven candidates running, Williams spoke to try to overturn a ballot measure requiring the party to allow unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in its primary. All the candidates except Kevin McCarney, a former Mesa County party chairman, expressed skepticism that Biden won legally election in 2020.
Williams’ main rival ended up being Erik Aadland, a combat veteran and political novice who ran unsuccessfully for a congressional swing seat in the Denver suburbs last year. Although he has also questioned the 2020 election results, he spoke in favor of discussing elections in less aggressive language, basing his speech Saturday around the theme of how “love trumps hate.”
Yet he also spoke in combative terms about how the party should move forward after Williams’ selection.
“We are being asked by a radical left that wants to destroy this country and we have to come together and win elections,” Aadland told the crowd.