At least six people — including indicted Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and two former Congressional candidates — are vying to become the next chair of the Colorado Republican Party, three months after an Election Day beating sank the party to a historic nadir.
The party’s current chair, Kristi Burton Brown, announced in December that she wouldn’t seek reelection when her term ends in March. Peters, who is set to stand trial in the coming months for allegedly plotting to breach election equipment, announced her candidacy on her website. She’s joined by Erik Aadland, who in November lost his bid to represent CD-7 to Democrat Brittany Pettersen, and Casper Stockham, who unsuccessfully ran for the CD-7 seat in 2020 and the state party chair shortly after that.
Dave Williams, a former state representative who lost in a primary last year to fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn,is running, as is Kevin Lundberg, who spent 15 years as a state lawmaker. So, too, is Aaron Wood, a Highlands Ranch Republican who previously founded a conservative group that seeks to “to ensure Christian conservative values remain strongly rooted in our society.”
The election, run and decided by the state’s central committee, will be held March 11 in Loveland.
Whoever succeeds Burton Brown will take the reins of a state party in disarray after several election cycles of decisive defeats. Democrats have now won all four statewide contests — governor, secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general — for two successive cycles, and their control over the General Assembly has grown to a supermajority in the House and near-supermajority in the Senate. Colorado Republicans lost both competitive Congressional races in November in an election that was billed as a red wave. Even U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert nearly lost, despite her district becoming more conservative since her first election.
Those losses, coupled with demographic shifts, require a years-long rebuild of the Republican Party in Colorado, various officials previously told the Denver Post. It’s an unenviable task: The party has been plagued by infighting in recent years, and veteran party members warn that there’s little a state-level leader can do to dim the polarizing national aura of Donald Trump. One consultant quipped in December that only the “insane, incapacitated or incompetent” would want to replace Burton Brown.
Despite the stark situation the candidates appear set to inherit, Stockham told the Post that the party chair was the best political job in the state. He said the party needed to emphasize unity and outreach if it is to emerge from the electoral wilderness, and he downplayed suggestions that Trump will negatively overshadow any work local Republicans undertake to rehab the party’s image.
Some of the sources and subjects of internal disunity and external polarity are now running to guide Republicans here for the next two years. Williams, no stranger to infighting during his time in the House, has called party leadership “charlatans” (a charge thrown at him by a now-former state lawmaker). In an email announcing his candidacy for party chair, he took shots at “the corrupt insider consultant class” and “failed party officials.”
Peters, Stockham and Wood all spoke at an anti-establishment protest outside of the Republican Party’s Greenwood Village headquarters after the November losses. Peters has consistently sought to sow baseless distrust of Colorado’s elections, and Aadland told a group of Jefferson County Republicans that the 2020 election was “absolutely rigged.”
Peters’s candidacy comes less than a year after she lost a primary bid to challenge Secretary of State Jena Griswold. Her trial was initially set to begin in early March, shortly before the state party election on March 11. But Colorado Public Radio reported that the trial will likely be delayed until the early summer.
Peters, who did not return messages seeking comment Monday, is facing six charges after she was indicted for allegedly allowing an outside party access to election equipment. She has denied any wrongdoing. At a state House committee hearing in mid-February, she said she “commissioned” someone to look at a forensic copy of an election server.
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