The Colorado Republican party on Saturday selected as its new chair a former state representative and committed election denier who promised to be a “wartime” leader.
Several other state Republican parties have recently elected far-right figures and election conspiracy theorists to top posts.
The move in Colorado comes with the party on the brink of irrelevance in a state moving swiftly left.
Dave Williams, who unsuccessfully tried to insert the anti-Biden meme “Let’s Go Brandon” into his name on the Republican primary ballot last year and backs Donald Trump’s lie that he won the 2020 election, was selected by the state executive committee from a seven-person field.
Williams crossed the required 50% threshold on the third ballot after being endorsed by the indicted former Mesa county clerk Tina Peters, who failed to pass 10%. Peters faces seven felony charges for illegally accessing voting machines. She has denied the allegations while becoming a prominent figure in the election conspiracy movement.
A three-term state representative from Colorado Springs, Williams challenged Doug Lamborn in the Republican congressional primary last year. The Colorado secretary of state rejected his effort to include a popular conservative phrase denigrating Joe Biden on the ballot.
In a speech to nearly 400 hardcore activists and party leaders on Saturday, Williams reprised a key theme from his campaign: that poor performance in Colorado is simply due to not fighting hard enough, not any disconnect with voters.
“Our party doesn’t have a brand problem,” Williams said. “Our party has a problem with feckless leaders … We need a wartime leader.”
Election deniers have won state party chair positions in Idaho, Kansas and Michigan.
In Colorado, Republicans lost every statewide election last year by double digits and are down to their lowest share of the state legislature in history. They have not won a major statewide race since 2014 and lag well behind Democrats and unaffiliated voters in registration.
Like six of the seven candidates who ran for chair, Williams advocated trying to overturn a ballot measure that requires the party to allow unaffiliated voters to take part in its primary. All of the candidates except Kevin McCarney, a former Mesa county party chairman, expressed skepticism that Biden won the 2020 election.
Williams’s main rival was Erik Aadland, a combat veteran and political novice who ran an unsuccessful race for a congressional swing seat in the Denver suburbs last year.
Aadland has also questioned the 2020 election results but this time advocated for discussing elections in less aggressive language, basing his speech on Saturday around the theme of how “love trumps hate”.
But Aadland also spoke in combative terms about how the party should move forward after Williams’s selection.
“We are besought by a radical left that wants to destroy this country, and we need to come together and win elections,” Aadland said.
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