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Our View: State GOP must determine, deliver unified message

Colorado Republicans have talked about rebuilding the party after the 2022 election beating. We imagined the GOP returning to its core ideology, determining what it wants to be now, making more room at the table for moderates and focusing on serving all members. From here, we’re expecting an evolved, unified message coming out of the process.

But we haven’t yet heard it.

The ghost of former President Donald Trump is still knocking around along with candidates proudly showing religious faith will influence policy. A doubling down on messaging that splintered the party and didn’t win state elections – for now – remains.

Consider the hats thrown in the ring for the top job to run the state Republican Party. Six candidates are going for the GOP chair, currently held by Kristi Burton Brown, and strongly identify as conservative Christian or at least conservative.

Two of the candidates remain fervent that the 2020 presidential election was rigged: former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, facing a trial this summer on felony charges related to allegations she breached her county’s secure voting equipment to prove that elections were fixed. And Erik Aadland, who ran for the 7th Congressional seat, and said loudly – and often – that the 2020 presidential election was “absolutely rigged.”

Others running include former state Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs; former state Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud; Casper Stockham of Aurora; and Aaron Wood of Douglas County. The election is on March 11.

Election losers are sticking to the same script, despite the evidence from votes cast. We see a disconnect.

Talk of GOP’s new leadership and new direction doesn’t seem new at all. Where’s the fresh insight?

Peters is, shall we say, a special case, not fit for office. She has supporters, many from Pray in Jesus Name Ministries of Colorado Springs. At a rally in November in Greenwood Village across the street from GOP headquarters, Peters laid bare the infighting, hard feelings and finger pointing within ranks. She took cheap shots at Burton Brown, saying one reason GOP nominees lost in 2022 was because Burton Brown muzzled Republicans, telling them not to spread unfounded claims that Colorado’s elections were rigged.

“Our country’s being taken away from us,” Peters told the crowd. “It starts with the treachery of the GOP in our state.”

We didn’t see treachery. Just a difference between candidates who talked about Trump’s false contention that the 2020 election was stolen from him and those who didn’t. Until the state GOP party unites internally on this point, that new charted course appears rudderless.

And, again, politicians’ Christian beliefs are more commonly on display.

On the Montezuma County Republicans’ page, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert beams while holding a shirt that says, “Jesus Matters.” Boebert’s squeaker win was a wake-up call. Yet, we haven’t seen much change in reaching all Southwest constituents of other faiths and persuasions on issues that concern them.

Shelli Shaw, who lost by 14 percentage points against Democratic incumbent Barbara McLachlan for the House District 59 seat, was criticized for being a recent transplant from Texas. But she’s putting down deeper roots and doing the work as new chairperson of the La Plata County Republican Central Committee, replacing David Peters.

In an email to The Durango Herald, Shaw said, “I am honored to serve alongside the patriots of La Plata County.”

Shaw is in the camp of stolen election convictions. In May 2022, in the Colorado Times Recorder, Shaw said, “I have seen evidence of fraud.”

We’d like to expand the conversation and hear more from local Republicans of varying mindsets. What exactly do you want from the party?