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Our View: GOP chairwoman stuck on party loyalty

Quality, problem-solving candidates matter more

On Monday, Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown announced she will not seek an additional term. In her resignation letter, Burton Brown said Republicans “will Never Surrender, and we will retake our state and country.”

The words “Never Surrender” – uppercase, no doubt – sound like a battle cry. They remind us of something war-weary Ukrainians say after almost a year of continual bombings. Or Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda, who hunkered down in the jungles of the Philippines for 29 years, refusing to believe World War II ended although his country waved the white flag.

Burton Brown went out the same way she ran the Republican Party. Too heavy on party loyalty rather than the importance of individual, quality candidates. Because a political party is only as good as its people.

Burton Brown tried to shape the GOP as one that solves problems. Something she missed – the significance of running exceptional candidates of substance and character who actually do solve problems. Not tending to this resulted in massive GOP losses.

We talked with Burton Brown at The Durango Herald, just before the midterms, when she emphasized familiar Republican talking points – crime and drugs, inflation and taxes. She was articulate, bright and educated. She was also fervent about the Republican Party as a whole – the weight and power of it. When we asked about the lack of quality GOP candidates, Burton Brown solidly backed everyone on the ticket. We pressed; she didn’t budge.

This strategy of party over all was flawed. Voters got behind particular issues and particular candidates. The most telling example, of course, was the 3rd Congressional District race – distinctly red – with many more than expected voters endorsing Democrat Adam Frisch and nearly unseating U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert. (In 2020, Burton Brown served as lead policy adviser for Boebert.)

The GOP is listing. Beyond conservatives, we don’t know who all it represents as remnants of the Trump administration fade. Moderate Republicans are open and wandering. “Never Surrender” implies holding onto old party ways. But, clearly, Coloradans wanted something else.

Also in Burton Brown’s letter, “Democrat policies continue to undermine our basic freedoms and liberties and are making this state less affordable, less safe, and a harder place to live and raise a family.” She went on and said Coloradans will look to Republican leaders “as the antidote to this failed, far-left ideology.”

Burton Brown characterized anyone who isn’t a conservative Republican as being far left. She missed the nuances, how Coloradans want to live their lives, the interiors of what the word freedom means to each of us. This is where Republicans can build a voter base – the place in the middle.

Burton Brown, a lawyer who started in politics as an anti-abortion advocate, served one term as Colorado GOP chairwoman, having been elected in 2021 after being vice chairwoman. She sought to reverse GOP’s losses in 2018 and 2020 through a policy platform called the “Commitment to Colorado,” aimed at unaffiliated voters, who ultimately weren’t wooed.

She was the first woman to chair the state Republicans since the 1970s. Next up, Burton Brown will focus on education policy. And she will be a force. Her star will rise here.

Energetic and ambitious, we imagined Burton Brown in for a longer stretch. We’re curious what the next GOP chair will bring. Changes are coming, too, in the Democratic Party with Chair Morgan Carroll stepping down.

But with all Burton Brown’s potential, blinders got in the way of her seeing the best direction for Colorado Republicans as the GOP, in general, sheds Trump’s baggage and moves out of his shadow, toward new possibilities and identities that resonate with more voters.